Michigan State Spartans PF Xavier Tillman Post NCAA Tournament Win Over Bradley

Hondo S. Carpenter

#2 Michigan State Spartans Defeat #15 Bradley Braves in NCAA Tournament

Wells Fargo Arena

Des Moines, IA

The #2 Michigan State Spartans saw their record on the year improve to 29-6 with a 76-65 win over #15 Bradley Braves.

Spartan Hall of Fame head coach Tom Izzo said of the contest, “These guys probably did a better job than I did. I felt like we were ready to play. I just felt like, in all honesty, Bradley played well the first half. They made shots. I think we covered real well. We missed shots. Kenny Goins really struggled. I thought he had some great looks. Then we had some bizarre lineups, and Conner and Gabe are not household games right now and just because of foul trouble we had to play with them. But you know, we wanted to get Nick Ward more minutes, and we got him some. But because of some defense coverage and that it made it harder. He's just not quite there yet, not all his fault, a little bit ours. He was productive getting to the free throw line and scoring a bucket and getting 5 rebounds. So I thought we got a little more out of him. We were 7, 8 up that was the first time I saw Cassius collapse, you know, the guy has been going so many minutes in that Sunday/Thursday turnaround. I felt he couldn't go. We had a turnover. They had a rebound. He let his guy go right around him the way we told him he was going and hard to get mad at him when he's doing everything he can for me and playing every minute of the game. It's just the situation we are in. I thought in general Bradley play better than I've seen them play this year, and that's a great tribute to Brian and his team and what they did.”

Bradley coach Brian Wardle said, “Our game plan, we wanted Winston shooting mid-range jump shots. I thought they were hurting us on the ball screens a little bit. I liked our aggressiveness in transition, and I liked how we attacked when we created misses and rebounded the ball. I like a lot of the shots we took in the second half and the looks we got. We just weren't able to get it. We probably didn't get to the offensive glass as much as we would like, but give Michigan State credit there. They're disciplined in blocking out and offensive rebounding. But at the six minute mark a few shots fall for us and they don't for them. We could be sitting here with a whole different outcome and that's basketball. That's momentum and that's those game-changing plays. We've made a lot of them all year, just not today.”

The Spartans were led by Cassius Winston. He went off for 26 points and three rebounds and four assists while playing 39 of the games 40 minutes. Emerging star Xavier Tillman had a double-double garnering 16 points and 11 assists in 31 minutes. Matt McQuaid rounded out the double-digit stat guys with 10 points.

Izzo said of the game, “I'm not giving my team enough credit. I know what we've been through from that Friday, Saturday, Sunday, get home and what we've gone through. You say it's an excuse, you don't say it. You're damn right, I'm proud of them. I am. We're still going to grind it. We're going to push it. We are still going to make mistakes. We didn't show mental toughness. I thought we were worn down. It's going to be good to go back to the hotel and look at some things. I am proud. Matt McQuaid and Cassius Winston just wouldn't let us lose and that was the two guys that talked the most in the huddles. Xavier struggled and then came around late and rebounded the ball really well, and in all honesty, Kenny just struggled. But he, too, played forty minutes in Chicago. Excuse. Reality. Whatever. I'm proud of this team until I get back to the hotel and then it's going to be dog-eat-dog until Saturday and then get back at it.”

Cassius Winston said, “Just the first game is always tough. You've got to get used to the atmosphere, the arena, things like that. First half, that was a really good team, also. They were solid in a lot of areas. So second half we pride ourselves in dominating games and do what we do best, that's rebounding and getting stops. We knew if we did those things we was going to come out on top.”

Izzo added of the play of Aaron Henry, “We challenged him and we said if he's going to down screen, Matt McQuaid hits the one, and we said the next time we will slip and get it to you in the post because they would sorta jump on Matt McQuaid. It sorta happened that way and he made a couple of big plays in there which is capable of doing. I get a kick out of you guys. Get after somebody because you're trying to hold them accountable. I don't know what kind of business you're in, because if I was head of a newspaper and you didn't do your job you would be held accountable. That's the way it is.”

Matt McQuaid raved about Winston after the win, “Means a lot. He does so much for this team. The way he leads and controls the game, just his passing ability and his vision, along with the scoring ability. It gets everybody on the court open and you've got to be ready for his passes.”

The Spartans shot 43% from the field including 26% from the three. The Spartans shot an AMAZING 96% (25 of 26) from the free throw line. It was that stat that won them the game. The Spartans had a paltry nine assists on 23 baskets.

The Spartans won the battle of the boards 36-26. The Spartans had a successful nine turnovers.

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

The #2 Spartans will return to action, right back here in Des Moines on Saturday. They will play the #10 Minnesota Golden Gophers. The Spartans faced the Gophers back on February 9 and beat them handily 79-55. Des Moines would be more like a Gopher home game. The crowd was bigger for the Gophers when they beat Louisville here earlier today.

Louisville is one of the best traveling teams in all of college basketball, but Des Moines is only three hours from Minneapolis, straight south on I35. The game time has yet to be announced.

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