Spartans share the sugar in lopsided win over Hawkeyes
East Lansing — The smiles came easily for Michigan State on Monday night, and only part of that was the fact the Spartans were cruising to a victory in their Big Ten home opener against Iowa.
That was fun enough for the players as No. 10 Michigan State rolled over No. 18 Iowa, 90-68, to improve to 2-0 in the conference behind a career-high 26 points from Nick Ward and 19 points from Kenny Goins, who also scored a career high.
But it was how the Spartans (7-2, 2-0 Big Ten) dismantled the Hawkeyes that was impressive. Michigan State had 28 assists on 31 made baskets, a statistic that is becoming the norm for a team that leads the Big Ten, averaging 20 assists a game.
“You have 28 assists on 31 baskets, it's unbelievable,” Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said. “I think at halftime, I don't know whatever number of baskets we had, we had one short of assists.”
Actually, Michigan State had 15 assists on 16 made baskets in the first half and continued that in the second half.
Junior guard Cassius Winston led the Spartans with 12 assists, one off his career high, while senior forward Kenny Goins handed out seven assists and junior guard Joshua Langford had five.
“That’s just how unselfish this team is,” Winston said. “Sometimes it’s giving up good shot for a great shot, moving that ball. It’s just having fun out there. Everybody is getting touches, everybody is moving the ball, getting assists and stuff. It’s really fun to play like that.”
While Michigan State has done a good job of distributing the ball, it’s also continued to cut down on its turnovers. After turning the ball over 41 times in two games against Texas and Louisville, the Spartans had only seven turnovers on Friday at Rutgers and gave it up eight times against Iowa.
The Spartans had just six turnovers until two in the final minutes from the backups that Izzo described as the “rat pack.”
However, he’s not about to let up on his players when it comes to valuing the ball.
“I don't think we're out of the deep water yet,” Izzo said. “I think that's one of the problems. We get a little casual at times. I'm not ready to figure that's over, I just, we've been harping on it, everybody's been harping on it. One time I've used every quote I could use from every coach, from every media guy. I'm trying to get our guys to understand the value of it.
“I think they've kind of understood that we're not going to win doing that, just like we're not going to win not shooting well from the free throw line.”
McQuaid still ailing
Senior guard Matt McQuaid missed his third straight game with a deep thigh bruise. He took part in the team’s walk-through on Monday and joined the Spartans for warmups but did not play.
His status for Saturday’s game at Florida remains uncertain.
“As of yesterday, I would have said 100 percent no,” Izzo said. “As the trainer told me every day that things could improve a lot, well it improved a lot from yesterday to today but again if he does it'll be as a minimum, I think, unless he has some remarkable recovery tomorrow again, which could happen. It's a bruise, it's not a broken leg or anything. It's just that it was a severe bruise.”
Nick Ward finished the game 10-for-10 shooting, just the fifth player in MSU history to be perfect on 10 or more shots. Ron Charles was 12-for-12 against Michigan in 1980 while Carlton Valentine was 11-for-11 against Brooklyn in 1986 and Bob Chapman was also 11-for-11 vs. Rhode Island in 1977. Alan Anderson was 10-for-10 in 2005 against Wisconsin.
… Three players had career highs in points on Monday — Ward (26), Kenny Goins (19) and Xavier Tillman (14).