One week after the theme of many of college basketball's opening games seemed to be 'winning ugly,' No. 12 Seton Hall and No. 3 Michigan State held a battle that had anything but an early-season feel at the Prudential Center.
In a high-level, back-and-forth contest, the two traded blows down to the final minute before a pair of Cassius Winston free throws sealed a thrilling 76-73 Spartans win on the road.
The Pirates had a chance at a game-winner with the ball in star Myles Powell's hands and 14 seconds to go, but Powell was denied by Michigan State's lengthy defense. After Winston's free throws, he then missed a prayer at the buzzer as the Spartans exhaled with a victory.
"It sure did feel like a March game, didn't it guys?" Tom Izzo said on the broadcast afterward.
Despite the loss, Powell was the star of the night. The senior guard wasn't even expected to be in Thursday's lineup after injuring his ankle on Saturday with what coach Kevin Willard expected to be a "prolonged absence." Not only did he play, he was spectacular. Powell poured in 37 points on 12-for-27 shooting (6 of 14 from three), hitting a number of standout shots that put a rocking Prudential Center crowd on its feet.
In the waning minutes, Powell hit back-to-back threes that gave Seton Hall a five-point lead and put the Spartans on their heels. Izzo's team responded with a three by freshman guard Rocket Watts before senior star Cassius Winston—who largely struggled from the floor but finished with 21—canned a triple himself.
Winston was playing just his second game since the tragic death of his younger brother, Zachary, over the weekend.
Freshman Malik Hall had a big game for the Spartans off the bench, scoring 17 and going a perfect 7 for 7 from the field with a series of timely shots. Watts finished with eight points, none bigger than his final three.
The road win is already a big boost for Michigan State's résumé, especially after losing its opener to Kentucky (which lost to mid-major Evansville this week) took away one opportunity at a marquee win. The Spartans have a loaded non-conference schedule that also includes a spot in the 2019 Maui Invitational and a home game with Duke in early December.
The Pirates failed to get a big home win on Thursday, but they'll also have other opportunities ahead to make their mark. Seton Hall's non-conference slate includes a loaded Battle 4 Atlantis field and a visit from No. 7 Maryland in December.
The Spartans' victory delivered the Big Ten a final 5–3 edge in the annual Gavitt Tipoff Games, the second year in a row that the conference beat the Big East by that margin.