'We couldn't stop them': Winston, MSU run past Oakland
East Lansing — Michigan State and Oakland have had their share of close games in the past, but more often, those tight matchups have happened on a neutral court.
At the Breslin Center, where the teams squared off on Friday night, it has been more of a one-sided series. That trend continued as No. 10 Michigan State remained perfect in 17 games against the Golden Grizzlies, running away with a 99-69 victory.
Running away is the best way to describe it as the Spartans scored 47 fast-break points, pushing the pace from the opening tip right to the final buzzer. It was too much for Oakland, which likes to play at a similar pace but found itself overmatched.
“I've been around a long time, and I've never looked at a stat sheet and seen 47 fast-break points,” Oakland coach Greg Kampe said. “Holy s---."
The catalyst to that running game that had the longtime Golden Grizzlies coach scratching head was junior guard Cassius Winston, who scored a season-high 26 points and led the break while collecting three of Michigan State’s 27 assists.
“We play fast and we didn’t want to play fast,” Kampe said. “We wanted to walk the ball up the floor and we did. That kept us from getting transition threes today. It’s one of the staples of our offense because we have so many guys who shoot the ball so well. We felt like if we could make the score in the 60s we would have a chance
“And we couldn’t stop them, and Winston is so unbelievable in transition with his change of direction and change of pace with the ball and the way he controls the ball and finds people. We couldn’t stop him.”
Winston finished 10-for-13 from the field, including 4-for-7 from 3-point range to lead the Spartans (10-2, 2-0 Big Ten). Nick Ward added 14 points and seven rebounds while Joshua Langford scored 12 for the Spartans.
“I do think we’re a good running team,” Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said. “I do think we can get up and down the court.”
It helps having Winston. He piled up his stats on Friday in just 25 minutes of action.
“I was getting some good looks and felt good out there,” Winston said. “(Pushing the tempo) is a focus of ours every game, just to push it hard, set the tempo, get out on the break. It’s hard to guard that many players when we’re coming that fast.
“I set the tone. They keep up with the pace. Everyone wants to score, and everyone wants the opportunity, so if I push it, everyone usually follows.”
Oakland (4-9) entered the game shooting nearly 42 percent from 3-point range and used that to do its best to stay in the game. The Golden Grizzlies were 13-for-23 from long range, but could not string many together, at least staying close until midway through the second half.
That’s when Michigan State exploded for a 23-3 run that expanded a 12-point lead to 32 with 4:32 to play. The Spartans finished with 47 fast-break points.
Braden Norris scored 18 for Oakland, going 6-for-7 from 3-point range, while Xavier Hill-Mais scored 17 but fouled out with more than five minutes left in the game. Jaevin Cumberland scored 13 and Karmari Newman chipped in 11 points.
Michigan State was running and sharing the ball early, opening a 16-point lead in the first half, getting 15 assists on 17 baskets and scoring 16 points in transition. Ward and Winston each scored 10 for the Spartans while Winston had three assists.
Oakland did its best to stay in the game with the 3-pointer. Entering the game, the Golden Grizzlies were seventh in the nation, hitting 41.9 percent of their 3s. They made 5 of 11 in the first half, including one at the buzzer from Norris to cut Michigan State’s lead to 45-32 at the break. Hill-Mais also did a solid job on the block, scoring 13 points in the first half for Oakland.
Early in the second half, a 3-pointer from Langford gave Michigan State its biggest lead at 61-42 with 14:18 to play in the game. But Oakland answered, scoring the next seven to cut the margin to 11. However, the run was short-lived as Matt McQuaid hit a 3 and Winston scored five straight to help Michigan State push the lead back to 18 with just more than eight minutes to play.
From there, the lead continued to grow as Michigan State took over. The Spartans finished with 13 3-pointers and scored 22 points off 13 Oakland turnovers.
Michigan State now heads to the Christmas break having won five straight but with Izzo still looking for his team to have the killer instinct late in games.
“I wanted to walk out of here feeling good,” Izzo said. “I feel decent. I don’t have many complaints offensively, I just thought the effort-related things we didn’t do as well.”