Michigan State Spartans men's basketball team overcomes shaky start to beat Rutgers, 71-60
By LARRY LAGE
AP Sports Writer
EAST LANSING — Xavier Tillman got off to a shaky start, filling in for Nick Ward in the starting lineup for No. 10 Michigan State.
Tillman finished strong, scoring a career-high 19 points and grabbing 10 rebounds, and Cassius Winston had 28 points help the short-handed Spartans come back to beat Rutgers 71-60 Wednesday night.
“It’s going to bring our team closer together,” coach Tom Izzo said. “Whether we’ll have enough, I don’t know. We’ll find out, but I’m not counting us out.”
Michigan State missed Ward and Joshua Langford on offense against defensive-minded Rutgers. Ward had hand surgery Sunday and Langford had season-ending foot surgery earlier this month, taking more than 30 points out of Izzo’s lineup.
Tillman, in particular, made the most of his opportunity.
“It builds tremendous confidence,” he said. “But Sunday, we have to get off to a much better start. This was a big win for us.”
The Spartans (22-5, 13-3 Big Ten) moved a half-game ahead of No. 7 Michigan and No. 15 Purdue in the Big Ten standings. They will play against the Wolverines on the road Sunday.
Michigan State started 0 of 6 and trailed 32-35 at halftime after making just 30 percent of its shots. The Scarlet Knights led by 11 points early in the second half before Tillman had six straight points and Michigan State’s best chance to score was off offensive rebounds.
“I thought we were getting in a little bit of a groove,” Rutgers guard Geo Baker said after scoring 17 points. “It felt good, but we were playing on the road and that team can explode at any time.”
Matt McQuaid made a game-tying 3-pointer with 12:39 left after Michigan State’s fourth offensive rebound of the possession. Winston made a go-ahead layup the next time the Spartans had the ball and they ended up coasting to a double-digit victory.