Thursday, October 22, 2020

FINAL: No. 10 Michigan State holds off Florida, wins 63-59

December 8, 2018
Freshman forward Aaron Henry (11) shoots a free throw during the game against Iowa University at Breslin Center on Dec. 3, 2018. The Spartans defeated the Hawkeyes, 90-68.
Freshman forward Aaron Henry (11) shoots a free throw during the game against Iowa University at Breslin Center on Dec. 3, 2018. The Spartans defeated the Hawkeyes, 90-68. —
Photo by Anntaninna Biondo | The State News

The last time the No. 10 Michigan State men’s basketball team (8-2) faced off against Florida (5-4), the Spartans edged the Gators 58-52 three Decembers ago in the Breslin Center. The Gators gave the Spartans a run for their money again Saturday afternoon at Stephen C. O'Connell Center, but MSU was able to stave off a late Florida comeback and win 63-59. 

The Gators got on the board first, making a layup on the fast break and then knocking down a shot from beyond the arc to get off to a 5-0 start. A long 2-pointer from guard Cassius Winston and a triple from guard Joshua Langford evened the score at five points two and a half minutes into the first half.

The Spartans started to roll from there on, as seven points from forward Nick Ward propelled an 11-5 run to give them a 16-10 lead halfway through the first half. Florida rallied right back, going on an 11-8 run over the next five minutes to pull them within three points of MSU. 

The Spartans were able to regain their distance on the scoreboard, finishing the half on an 11-5 run to extend their lead to eight going into halftime. 

Ward kicked off the second half with back-to-back baskets to push MSU's lead to double digits at 39-27. However, the Gators would rattle off eight straight points to bring them back to within striking distance.

The Gators were able to stay right on the Spartans’ tails over the next 10 minutes, matching them bucket-for-bucket, and making the score 50-46 with just over seven minutes left in the game. A layup by Florida’s Andrew Nembhard made it a two-point game with just under two minutes left.

But a clutch, last-second two-handed dunk by senior guard Kyle Ahrens gave MSU a four-point lead with less than 10 seconds left. 

Forwards Xavier Tillman and Ward followed up strong performances against Iowa last Monday, by going 6-for-7 from the floor for 14 points and 6-for-8 for 13 points, respectively, against the Gators. 

The Spartans will take a week long break before taking on Green Bay (5-3) next Sunday. Tipoff is scheduled for 5 p.m. EST at the Breslin Center.

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