Michigan State's Cassius Winston, Gabe Brown and Xavier Tillman talk about the Spartans' loss at Purdue on Sunday. The Detroit News
West Lafayette, Ind. — There won’t be many days like this for Cassius Winston.
The Michigan State senior has been playing as well as anyone in the country the last couple of weeks as he’s been busy reminding everyone why he was a preseason favorite to not only repeat as Big Ten Player of the Year but also for national player of the year.
Odds are, Winston will be happy to ignore what happened Sunday as Purdue blew out No. 8 Michigan State, 71-42.
Nobody played well for the Spartans, but Winston had an especially tough game, scoring 10 points on 4-for-13 shooting while turning the ball over nine times, matching the most he’s ever committed in a game. Winston was also 0-for-5 from 3-point range, the first time this season he hasn’t made at least one 3-pointer in a game.
“They did a good job,” Winston said of Purdue’s defense. “We tried to get out quick so it was my fault. I was a little impatient. I think we got down early and I was trying to force things, kind of trying to help us get back in the game where I have to be a little bit more patient.”
It was clear Purdue’s goal defensively was do whatever it took to limit Winston, who entered the game averaging 19.4 points and 6.3 assists a game.
Boilermakers guard Eric Hunter pestered Winston the entire game and it led to Michigan State committing 18 turnovers, which led to 21 points for Purdue.
“Just having active hands and making it hard on him,” Purdue coach Matt Painter said. “We have a lot of respect for him. We have the utmost respect for him in how he can control a game. He can control a game with scoring, he can control it with passing, he can control it with leadership and the example he sets. But I just thought they never got quite in that rhythm offensively. And I thought Eric Hunter did a really good job on him, just not trying to do too much, try to take up his space and not give him angles, but that’s easier said than done. He’s a great player.”
Winston turned the ball over on the first possession of the game and it only went downhill from there.
By the end of the first half, Winston had five turnovers and was 2-for-8 shooting as the Boilermakers gave him no room to work. It led to some frustration for Winston as the game progressed.
“I’ve got to get out of the habit of trying to force the issue,” Winston said. “Usually it's not a problem because I move the ball and if a team wants to play like that and take me out of the game and my team is doing well, I’m OK with it. I will gladly go a game with zero points if we win by however many points, so it's not that type of thing.
“I think today I got caught trying … the score wasn't really in our favor, so I was trying to force things, trying to make plays, trying to help my team and I think it got me caught in trouble.”
Michigan State coach Tom Izzo chalked it up to one bad game.
“Knowing Cassius,” Izzo said, “I bet he doesn't have nine turnovers in the next five games.”
Michigan State coach Tom Izzo breaks down the Spartans' loss to Purdue, their first Big Ten loss of the season. The Detroit News
It was another big game for Purdue sophomore Trevion Williams, the former standout at Henry Ford Academy in Detroit.
The 6-foot-9, 270-pound Williams scored 16 points and grabbed seven rebounds just days after he scored 36 points and pulled down 20 rebounds in a double-overtime loss at Michigan.
“Trevion is a hell of a player,” Izzo said. “I love that kid. He's one kid I can be happy for about his journey about what he's done. We were (a team) that sort of passed on him, but at least we recruited him. Some other schools they recruited him, but it's the American dream to see what that kid's doing and all these people didn't believe in him.”
Williams left a violent neighborhood when he moved to Michigan and blossomed into a basketball standout, becoming a finalist for Mr. Basketball in 2018.
The win on Sunday was special, he admitted, since it came against the Spartans, but it was bigger for what it meant to the Boilermakers.
“That is one of the tougher teams in our league,” Williams said. “Just to come out and get a win like that means a lot for me, but most importantly for our team, it’s a tone-setter from here on out.”
Freshman Rocket Watts had his best game since returning from a leg injury that forced him to miss four games. He finished with 10 points on 4-for-6 shooting in almost 21 minutes.
“You win some and you lose some,” Watts said. “We play again on Friday and we're gonna bounce back.”