‘Spe­cial’ Win­ston pow­ers Spar­tans past Wolver­ines

Orlando Sentinel - - SCOREBOARD -

EAST LANSING, Mich. — Cas­sius Win­ston made his last home game against Michi­gan mem­o­rable with a sen­sa­tional per­for­mance his in-state ri­vals would rather for­get.

Win­ston had a ca­reer-high 32 points and nine as­sists, lead­ing No. 14 Michi­gan State to a 87-69 vic­tory over the 12th-ranked Wolver­ines on Sun­day.

“It was one of the greater per­for­mances that this build­ing has seen,” said coach Tom Izzo, who has wit­nessed a slew of games at Bres­lin Cen­ter as a head coach and as­sis­tant over the last three decades. “I don’t think any of us will ever be able to ap­pre­ci­ate what that kid has gone through and how he has han­dled it.”

Win­ston has had a heavy heart for nearly two months be­cause his younger brother, Zachary, died af­ter be­ing hit by a train.

The se­nior star has played while griev­ing and that seemed to ad­versely af­fect some of his per­for­mances ear­lier in the sea­son, but he was at his best in the first of two sched­uled games against Michi­gan.

“Cas­sius is a su­perb, phe­nom­e­nal player,” Wolver­ines coach Juwan Howard said. “He does an ex­cel­lent job of read­ing what­ever you throw at him. Give him credit. He’s crafty. There’s a rea­son why he was the player of the year in the Big Ten.”

Win­ston was 11 of 19 over­all and 8 of 11 at the line. He had just two turnovers de­spite hav­ing the ball in his hands dur­ing much of his 38-minute out­ing.

“I made a lot of things hap­pen,” Win­ston said. “Ev­ery­thing was click­ing. I felt that I was in rhythm the whole game. I was in con­trol the whole game.”

Michi­gan State’s Xavier Till­man fell one point short of his ca­reer high with 20 points, grabbed 11 re­bounds and had a ca­reer-high six blocks.

“Cas­sius is spe­cial, but don’t sleep on Xavier,” Izzo said.

The Spar­tans (12-3, 4-0 Big Ten) were ahead the en­tire game, lead­ing by as many as 13 points in the first half and earn­ing a big­ger cush­ion in the sec­ond, to beat their ri­vals for a fourth con­sec­u­tive time.

Michi­gan State has won seven straight and is the only Big Ten team with­out a con­fer­ence loss.

The Wolver­ines (10-4, 1-2) have lost four of their last seven games af­ter start­ing 7-0 and go­ing from un­ranked to No. 4.

The for­mer Fab Five star faced Michi­gan State for the first time as a coach af­ter go­ing 5-1 in the se­ries as a player.

Howard be­came un­hinged af­ter not get­ting a call he wanted. He was called for a tech­ni­cal early in the sec­ond half af­ter leav­ing the side­line and go­ing onto the court in protest.

“I had seen enough,” Howard said. “... I’m an emo­tional guy and I’m al­ways go­ing to fight for my play­ers.”

Shortly there­after in the sec­ond half, Izzo was also called for a tech­ni­cal foul in the highly charged game.

GRE­GORY SHAMUS/GETTY

Cas­sius Win­ston scored a ca­reer-high 32 points in Michi­gan State’s win Sun­day.

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