#2 Michigan State Spartans Blow Out #10 Minnesota Gophers in NCAA Tournament

Hondo S. Carpenter

#2 Michigan State Spartans Blow Out #10 Minnesota Gophers in NCAA Tournament

Wells Fargo Arena

Des Moines, IA

The #2 Michigan State Spartans saw their record on the year improve to 30-6 with a 70-50 win over #10 Minnesota Golden Gophers. It was Hall of Fame head coach Tom Izzo’s 50th NCAA win.

Tom Izzo said of making his 14th sweet 16 in 22 years that, “This one feels better. We were disappointed in '16. We had a really good team and we had a loss to a team that played better, Middle Tennessee, and the next year people said we didn't play well. We had injuries to our bigs and I thought, last year, so many issues. But I look at these guys and these guys have won 60 games now in two years. That's a hell of an accomplishment and getting back to the Sweet 16, there's nothing like playing when it stays daylight longer. You come out of those practices now and the sun is still shining. It's the greatest feeling in the world.”

Gopher head coach Richard Pitino said, “Congratulations to Michigan State. They're a really, really good team. To go on to the Sweet 16, obviously Coach Izzo with what he's accomplished, it's a testament to that program, how consistent they are. They have some really good players and obviously very well-coached. Obviously, we felt like we could give it a go with Murph early, when we shot around he looked pretty good and I think he may be got off it a little bit and tried to give it a go during that warm-up and he didn't look good at all.”

The Spartans were led by PF Xavier Tillman. He had 14 points and six rebounds and ruled the Gophers defensively with an iron fist. Cassius Winston was the only other double-digit scorer with 13 points, four rebounds, and nine assists. Kenny Goins, Aaron Henry, Matt McQuaid and Nick Ward each chipped in nine points.

Izzo said of the game, “I'm proud of these guys. We just played 5 games in 8 days and it took a toll on some of us. There were stretches where we were good and bad but a couple things happened today that were bizarre. You know, we beat a team by 20 when we had 22 turnovers. I thought Aaron Henry did a good job on Amir Coffey. He had 25 points but he took 20-some shots. It was good to get Nick back in the fold here a little bit. It's not easy to do what he did, and, you know, Xavier was Xavier. Matt McQuaid was Matt McQuaid. Cassius was a little rusty, a little sore.”

Cassius Winston said, “It's about your energy level and your approach, focusing on the task at hand. You've got to make big plays. I've got to be who I am for this team. That's my role for this team. That's what I've been doing all year. I don't try to do too much. I don't try to put the world on my shoulders, but I try to make plays to the best of my ability.”

Izzo added, “So and to play that many games in 8 days when you already beat up is hard. One of the timeouts I told him he's got to take over and like a true all-American did. He took over and had about as good of a two-minute stretch there as you could and a 9-point lead went to 16 and we starting cruising. Getting back Nick is going to be big for us. He had 9 and 7. Xavier had 7 or 8 rebounds. Kenny had 6 or 7, and we outrebounded them bad. And yet I want to be fair to Richard and his team. We all love Jordan Murphy. He's a tough kid, best rebounder on the planet and it was sad not to see him play to himself. I think we deserve credit for the start we had and we were sloppy, but man, another championship weekend for us and we move on to the next one and I can't tell you how excited I am.”

Xavier Tillman said of making his first NCAA tournament that, “I'm just excited more so because my freshman year it didn't end the way I was hoping to. So I'm just excited we were able to advance past this pointed and more excited for our program because we haven't been able to do that for three years, to break the curse feels pretty good.”

The Spartans shot a stunning 57% from the field including a stellar 40% from the three. The Spartans shot a disappointing 73% from the free throw line. The Spartans had 16 assists on 28 baskets.

The Spartans won the battle of the boards 45-19. That stat won the game. The Spartans had a horrific 22 turnovers. A simply unacceptable amount.

Izzo played 12 players including all five of his five freshmen.

The #2 Spartans will return to action, in Washington DC in the 3rd round of the east region for the NCAA tournament on Friday. They will be playing #3 LSU.

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