CHICAGO – Forget rest, Michigan State basketball has another championship to play for.
Cassius Winston and the sixth-ranked Spartans blitzed no. 19 Wisconsin early and never trailed to 67-55 victory in Saturday's Big Ten tournament semi-final at United Center.
The junior point guard scored 21 points with six assists, going 9 of 17 from the floor. Kenny Goins added 13 points and 12 rebounds, hitting four of MSU's nine 3-pointers. Xavier TIllman added 17 points, and freshman Aaron Henry grabbed a career-best 11 rebounds
The Spartans (27-6) advance to Sunday's Big Ten tournament championship game for the first time since winning it all in 2016. They will face the winner of Michigan-Minnesota at 3:30 pm (CBS) Ethan Happ essentially replicated his line from the first game with 20 points on 10 of 20 to lead the Badgers (23-10), but MSU held him to just six rebounds.
Michigan State guard Cassisu Winston scores against Wisconsin defenders during the first half action of the Big Ten tournament semifinal Saturday, March 16, 2019 at the United Center in Chicago. (Photo: Kirthmon F. Dozier, Detroit Free Press)
After a sluggish and sloppy start against Ohio State on Friday, MSU came out against Wisconsin with one of its best starts of the season.
Winston, the Big Ten player of the year, orchestrated it all, setting up Goins and McQuaid for 3-pointers in the first 1:05, then burying a deep jumper at the top of the key for an 8-0 start
After a bucket by Happ, Winston picked up his third assistant on Goins' second triple, then the 6-foot-1 point guard knifed into the lane for a pair of angular layups that forced Wisconsin coach Greg Gard to call. timeout with the Spartans off to a 15-4 lead just 5:31 into the opening half.
They weren't done.
Goins drained his third 3-pointer, and Nick hit a hook that puts MSU up , 20-6. The Spartans made 9 of 12 shots to open the game, then went ahead by 17 points on Xavier Tillman's three-point play.
MSU went 7 of 12 from beyond the arc in the first half, but it cooled off by going 4 of 17 from the field in the final 10:51 as Wisconsin cut it to 35-27 at halftime
Winston had 11 points and four assists at the break.
Ward finished with two points and Three rebounds in his second game back from a broken hand. I was used for 11 minutes off the bench again, interspersing the 6-9 junior with Tillman and Goins and mixing up his combination on the block.
MSU dominated the badgers on the glass with a 45-29 rebounding advantage, though Wisconsin outscored MSU in the paint, 40-22.
Henry crashed the glass with reckless abandon and also had six points and two assists. Freshman Gabe Brown continued to see Kyle Ahrens' bad back flaring after he took a hard fall in the first half. And Thomas Kithier got some spotlight when Ward picked up his third foul early in the second half
After playing a season-low 22 minutes against Ohio State, Izzo continued to monitor Winston's court time against the Badgers
Winston played 28 minutes and committed just two turnovers. The Spartans had 15 giveaways, most coming in a few sloppy stretches in each half. They also outscored Wisconsin, 10-3, on the break.
Contact Chris Solari at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @chrissolari . Read more on the Michigan State Spartans and sign up for our Spartans newsletter.