Michigan State Basketball Avoids Major Upset

Colin Koot

The second seeded Michigan State Spartans narrowly avoided one of the biggest upsets of the NCAA Tournament.

The Spartans needed Cassius Winston and their year’s best performance at the free throw line (25-26) to pull away from the Bradley Braves in the closing seconds.  Winston had 26 points, many of those coming in the second half when MSU needed a bucket.

“Cassius does so much for this team the way he leads and controls the game.  His passing ability and vision in addition to his scoring, he gets everyone on the court open,” said Michigan State senior guard Matt McQuaid on Winston. “You’ve got to be ready for his passes.”

The game stayed within one possession until McQuaid made a big three with 3:31 left to put the Spartans up six.  Then, freshman guard Aaron Henry made a layup in order to put Michigan State up eight.

Bradley freshman guard Darrell Brown made a three pointer with 1:54 remaining to make the score 65-60, but then the Braves were forced to put MSU on the free throw line, where they could not miss.

“The first game is always tough,” said Michigan State senior guard Cassius Winston. “That was a really good team.  In the second half we kind of prided ourselves in dominating the game and doing what we do best, and that’s rebounding and getting stops.”

Michigan State sophomore forward Xavier Tillman recorded a double-double with 16 points and 11 rebounds, most of which came in the second half.

Sophomore forward Elijah Childs led the Braves with 19 points and Brown added another 17.  Bradley shot well from the three point line (9-21), but it wasn’t enough to pull off the upset.

“I don’t think there were many teams that could have beat us today.  We ran into one that could,” said Bradley head coach Brian Wardle.

The Spartans will face the Minnesota Golden Gophers in the second round, a team they destroyed 79-55 in East Lansing on February 9.

Minnesota is lead by junior guard Amir Coffey, a shifty player capable of dropping 20 points on anybody.  In their regular season matchup, the Spartans held Coffey to just 4 points. However, when the Golden Gophers beat Purdue in the Big Ten Tournament, Coffey scored 21.  

Michigan State looks to put their first round scare behind them when they take on Minnesota in the round of 32 on Saturday, March 23.