Charboneau: Cassius Winston gets upper hand on Zavier Simpson in battle of heavyweights

Matt Charboneau
The Detroit News
Michigan's Brandon Johns Jr. can't stop Michigan State's Cassius Winston from driving to the basket in the first half.

Ann Arbor – It was everything everyone expected it would be.

Sure, that could cover the entire game, a 77-70 victory for Michigan State, a win most did not predict and few saw coming as the Spartans were without Nick Ward and Joshua Langford.

More specifically, the showdown between Michigan’s Zavier Simpson and Michigan State’s Cassius Winston was everything – a back-and-forth battle of two heavyweights landing haymakers. Neither player came off the court, both playing a full 40 minutes.

Winston, dogged by his performance last season in two Michigan State losses, came out on top this time. The junior guard scored 27 points, 19 coming the second half, while handing out eight assists. Simpson was nearly as good, scoring 19 points and grabbing five rebounds.

But it was Winston who made the winning plays in the second half, and in the process, might have locked up Big Ten Player of the Year honors. He’s done it all season for the Spartans, but the question still lingered under the surface of whether he could overcome any doubt from a season ago and get the better of Simpson against Michigan State’s top rival.

He did that on Sunday, and in the process put Michigan State in the driver’s seat in the Big Ten with just three games to play.

It takes nothing away from the rematch on March 9 in East Lansing, and there was no head-hanging from Simpson.

In fact, if the same performance comes in round two of the rivalry this season, then both sides will say “bring it on.”

Twitter: @mattcharboneau