The #3 Michigan State Spartans got their fifth win of their season tonight to improve to 5-2 on the season. They dominated UCLA 75-63. With the win the Spartans finished in fifth place in the Maui Classic.
The Spartans were led by Cassius Winston who had 20 points. Xavier Tillman had 14 points and seven rebounds. Mark “ROCKET” Watts had 12 points and was the only other Spartan in double digits.
Tom Izzo said of the contest that, “First of all, I would like to give credit to UCLA. I've known Mick and I think what he's trying to bring out there is what we have in the Midwest, a little tougher, more aggressive team. And I thought his big guys were physical, and a lot of the teams we face in the Big-10, athletic, but they have length, and what you hope to get out of these tournaments, when you go to them and all these big games we played early, and I think they have done a great job in this committee here selecting teams because you got a variety of different teams. I mean, hell, nothing against Kansas, I look at Dayton and I think they might be the best team here right now. And we'll see what happens. But I think there's been a lot of good teams. And we played zone, today was a matchup-type zone. We've run against different offenses. And we got to keep in mind that we are still very young. We were just talking, there's three guys that have any real experience. So when you have tournament and you don't go to a gym, you just have a walkthrough in a ballroom, it's hard for those new guys to pick that stuff up.”
He added, “I thought these two guys played their tail off. I would say the only problem that I am struggling with a little bit, we go small sometimes. We did get out-rebounded by one, but they're big. We're missing layups. We're missing lay ups. And I already talked to X, he's one of them. But it's not just him. The sad part is I don't think if he would have made his layups in this tournament he would have averaged probably 18 points a game. So his offense is really starting to come along and we're starting to go to him a little bit more. And Cassius is still the guy that stirs the drink, coaches the team, and makes the popcorn.”
The Spartans lost the battle of the boards 33-32 against the much bigger Bruins. The Spartans had an outstanding season low of six turnovers. The Spartans had the lead for over 32 of the 40 minutes in the game. MSU also lead in points off of turnovers by a 14-1 margin.
Cassius Winston said of the game, “We just learned a lot about our team. To come in and kind of get punched in the mouth, we haven't really had a chance to kind of respond to that that fast. We kind of usually got time to practice and go back and watch film and learn what to do to get better. This time we got punched in our mouth and then we had to play the next day. And I think we did a pretty good job of rallying and getting back out there and playing hard for the next couple days. So we got fight in us, we got the talent, we got the potential, it's about bringing every day. This time we brought it two out of three days and that's something that we can fix.”
The Spartan continued their habit of being unselfish. They had 11 assists on 23 baskets. The Spartans shot 42% from three, 46% from the field and a satisfactory 84% from the charity stripe.
Xavier TIllman said of the game, “I would definitely say our turnaround, even though we had a tough loss at the beginning, they did a good job of just bouncing back in that first, like, two thirds of the Georgia game when we were just on a tear defensively, offensively getting open shots. And then this game coming in on a tear, everybody locked in everybody doing their job. So I would just say our bounce back is what I would take from this.”
UCLA Coach Mick Cronin said of the game, “Obviously a physically tough game today. Proud of the fact our guys out-rebounded them by one. We took care of the ball. Two areas of improvement for our team. Tough to win a game like that when you go 2-15 from three. We had some really good looks at times. Really, that's the difference in the game. We get outscored 24-6 at the three-point line. That and I thought there was some really tough calls. I thought Prince got a, trying to get out of the way, there's three times where they just dove into us and about, it's a blood bath to try to get a rebound. So I knew that was coming. Been there, done that. Guys have any questions?”
The Spartans return to the court against the Duke Blue Devils in East Lansing on Tuesday, December 3rd in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge. That game can be seen on ESPN and it tips off at 9:30 PM
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