Tom Izzo and the Michigan State Spartans no longer have to wait for a recently elusive Sweet 16 appearance, as they advanced to their first Sweet 16 since 2015.
The Spartans beat the tenth seeded Minnesota Golden Gophers 70-50 despite 22 turnovers, their second highest total of the year. They will go to their fourteenth Sweet 16 in the last twenty-two years.
“I’m just excited, more so for our program,” said Michigan State Sophomore forward Xavier Tillman. “Not being able to pass this point for three years, to kind of break the curse for us, it feels pretty good.”
The Spartans came out shooting, making nine of their first ten shots on their way to a 14 point lead at halftime.
Minnesota scored eight straight points in the second half to cut the MSU lead to single digits, but then Big Ten Player of the Year Cassius Winston seized control.
“I told him, ‘You’ve got to take over,” said MSU head coach Tom Izzo to Winston. “He did, like the All-American that he is. That was about as good a two minutes as you could have.”
Winston scored seven straight points to quell the Golden Gopher’s run and put MSU in the driver’s seat for the reminder of the game.
“We kind of tried to push the tempo a little bit, get them scrambling,” said Minnesota junior guard Amir Coffey. “It was working. We had momentum, the crowd got into it and then Cassius just hit some big threes.”
Minnesota was without senior forward Jordan Murphy for most of the game due to back tightness. Murphy had been named to the All Big Ten second team and was the team’s leading rebounder. MSU dominated the Golden Gophers on the glass 45 to 19.
“We felt like we could give it a go with Murphy early. Then in warmups, it wasn’t good at all,” said Minnesota head coach Richard Pitino.
Michigan State will play next on Friday, March 29, at 7 pm against the three seed in the East region, the LSU Tigers. The Tigers are 30-6 on the year, with a win over Kentucky under their belt.
The Spartans, led by star point guard Cassius Winston, look to beat LSU and advance to the Elite Eight with a chance to go to their first Final Four since 2015.