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Game Report: Cassius Winston Keys Michigan State’s Win Against Iowa

February 25, 2020

Written by Rob Howe

Hawkeye Nation

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The good news for Iowa is that Cassius Winston will be graduating after the season. The bad news is that he was available against the Hawkeyes for Tuesday night’s second half in East Lansing.

The reigning Big Ten Player of the Year overcame an uncharacteristically poor opening 20 minutes, igniting his No. 24 Michigan State squad to a 78-70 victory against visiting 18th-ranked Iowa. It was the Hawkeyes’ 21st loss in their last 22 trips to the Breslin Center.

Winston scored 20 points, handed out nine assists and grabbed five rebounds. He was held to one point before halftime. Freshman Rocket Watts netted a game-high 21 points for the winners, while teammate Aaron Henry added 17 in a game that featured 10 lead changes and four ties.

“He draws a lot of attention,” Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said of Winton’s second half. “Yeah, he got loose, but it also created opportunities for Henry and Rocket. And those guys got it going to in the second half, too.”

Michigan State (19-9, 11-6) held a 24-0 advantage in fast-break points.

Iowa center Luka Garza, the leading candidate for conference player of the year this season, scored 20 points and pulled down nine rebounds. He reached the 20-point mark for the 13th game in the row, matching the run of Fred Brown during the 1971 Iowa campaign.

Connor McCaffery played well for the Hawkeyes (19-9 overall, 10-7 Big Ten). The sophomore scored 11 points, dished out seven assists without a turnover and swiped three steals. Ryan Kriener added 18 points and seven rebounds for the visitors.

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“Ryan and Connor both have had great years,” Fran McCaffery said. “Michigan State doesn’t double, but they doubled the post tonight. They were going to live with other people scoring. And Connor and Kriener stepped up for us in a big way.”

The Hawkeyes’ second-leading scorer, Joe Wieskamp, struggled with his shooting for a second road game in a row. After being held to two points at Minnesota 10 days ago, the sophomore managed just four on Tuesday. He shot 1 of 8 from the floor, including 0 of 5 on three-pointers. He did pull down five rebounds.

“He’s struggling shooting and scoring, yeah, but in fairness to him, he didn’t hunt shots. He took good shots that were open,” Fran McCaffery said. “He was defended well. Give his opponent credit. They rotated guys on him. They did a good job.

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“He kept playing D. He kept getting on the glass. He’s a team guy. I feel bad that a couple of those open shots didn’t go in for him. Nobody feels worse than he does.”

Iowa competed without third-leading scorer CJ Fredrick. The freshman guard missed his third game in a row with an ankle injury.

“I think CJ will be ready Saturday (for the Penn State game), but he hasn’t been cleared yet,” Fran McCaffery said. “So, we’ll see how he does the next couple of days.”

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The Hawkeyes led for 27 minutes, 22 seconds compared to just 7:59 for the home team. A Kriener trey with 17:29 to play in the second half put them ahead 42-32, their largest advantage of the night.

A Winston fast-break triple at the 16:04 completed a 9-0 run and pulled the home team within two points of the lead. Iowa responded with a 6-0 spurt, but the Spartans bounced right back by scoring 12 of the game’s next 14 with Winston netting eight.

The Hawkeyes went up 60-56 with 6:57 on the clock before Michigan State made a decisive push. A 10-1 run put it ahead by five and it held at least a two-possession advantage the rest of the way.

The Hawkeyes return to action Saturday when they play host to Penn State at 11 a.m. CT.

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