Cassius Winston closes the show in style in homecoming
Detroit — Cassius Winston was back home on Saturday, playing in front of more family and friends than he could count.
The former U-D Jesuit star was with No. 2 Michigan State as it took on Oakland at Little Caesars Arena, and he was hoping to have a big game. However, through the first 20 minutes, the sophomore guard had little impact outside of the four first-half turnovers, a couple of which sparked a late first-half rally for the Golden Grizzlies.
Apparently, Winston was saving his best for when it mattered most.
With Michigan State clinging to a one-point lead, Winston scored five of seven Michigan State points before closing the game out with the Spartans’ final 14 points in an 86-73 victory in front of a jam-packed arena cheering for the hometown hero.
“It was great. There were a lot of people here,” said Winston, who tried to get tickets from anyone he could. “Having a chance to be back home was great.”
For the first half, things were far from great. Winston, who entered the game shooting 61 percent from 3-point range, missed his first four attempts and looked out of sync.
That’s when his coached challenged him, a move that turned out to be the right one.
“He was jacked early this morning and we made a big deal about him being home,” Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said. “But I’ve been too soft on him. When I got him mad he played a lot better. So, I think we’ll change our approach here a little bit.
“He went in there with a vengeance in that last 10 minutes. He told me what he was gonna do on the bench and went out there and did it.”
Winston made his final three 3-point attempts and committed just two turnovers in the second half while grabbing six rebounds. He admitted he was fired up on the bench, but it was as much at himself as his coach.
“Oh yeah, he definitely challenged me a little bit,” Winston said. “I don’t know who I was mad at. I was mad at him, I was mad at myself and everything so it helped me out. It brought that aggressiveness out of me, that passion that I needed to play with in the beginning.”
Winston is quickly becoming Michigan State’s go-to guy down the stretch, but there never seemed any doubt of that before the game.
“He was very excited and we were excited for him,” Miles Bridges said. “We knew there were a lot of people here, coming back to his hometown and he made big plays down the stretch. He was open every time and he took advantage of it.”
They didn’t fill the box score with gaudy numbers, but the role senior guard Lourawls Nairn and junior forward Kenny Goins played in Michigan State’s win was no less valuable.
“If you’re looking for stars and heroes, Kenny Goins did an unbelievable job and Tum (Nairn),” Izzo said. “Nick Ward saved us early and I think Kenny and Tum saved us late. And Cassius had an unbelievable second half.”
As Oakland’s Kendrick Nunn was busy hitting huge 3-pointer after huge 3-pointer, the Spartans put Nairn on him in the second half and stifled the Illinois transfer. Nunn scored 32, but he had to work for his shots and was 5-for-12 from 3-point range.
Goins made more of an impact on the stat sheet, grabbing eight rebounds and handing out seven assists from the middle of the Oakland zone.
“At halftime we put a big emphasis on rebounding, so I kept crashing the boards, offensively and defensively,” Goins said. “Also, playing in the middle of that zone and find the open man. Cassius made some great shots and that’s just kind of the role I had to play, rebound and play in that zone.”
Ward scored 15 points and grabbed 15 rebounds to record his second double-double of the season.
… Michigan State outrebounded Oakland, 45-30. The Spartans entered the game No. 6 in the country in rebound margin (plus-11.4).
… Michigan State had six blocks after going three straight games with double-digit blocks. The Spartans entered the game No. 1 in the nation in blocks per game (8.3).