Cassius Winston dazzles again in win over Rutgers
With 8:50 left in Wednesday night’s game, junior point guard Cassius Winston took a ball screen into the right corner with five seconds remaining on the shot clock.
This was a dying possession, even in the midst of a beautiful stretch of basketball for the Spartans, as they led by five after trailing by 11 at one point. Winston was matched up against Rutgers’ Eugene Omoruyi, a 6-foot-7 powerhouse, who might be the Scarlet Knights’ best defender.
He hit Omoruyi with a double crossover, but the Ontario native stood strong. Winston went with a hesitation dribble. Still nothing. Finally, he stepped back and launched a rainbow, almost falling into the Spartan bench.
The run swelled to 27-6, and MSU eventually won 71-60, largely on the second-half brilliance of Winston, who finished with 28 points and eight assists.
“At halftime, I said, ‘this is what player-of-the-year candidates, this is what All-Americans, this is what you do," MSU coach Tom Izzo said. "We gotta go on your back a little bit."
And so they did. Time and again, Winston and a big went into a ball screen, where he dazzled. Sometimes, the U-D Jesuit product shot the ball over the screens. Sometimes, he went down the lane and went to the free throw line (Winston finished 9-of-10 from the stripe). Other times, he found open shooters or rim-rollers for easy buckets.
“I try not to get too trigger-happy,” Winston said postgame. “I just try to take good shots, I don’t want to take bad ones. Every now and then, I take a heat check, just in case. Like I said, keep playing basketball. Don’t let your head get too big.”
Izzo has always had great relationships with his point guards. Mateen Cleaves was the first great one, of course, and he will always be the gold standard by which Izzo points are judged by. Shannon Brown, Korie Lucious, and Kalin Lucas all stand out in the mind.
Winston is now firmly in that conversation.
“With all those guys, when you go through stuff with them … everybody grows together,” Izzo said. “I feel like (Winston is) really starting to understand what he’s got to do, a little more demonstrative on calling a play, or the defensive stuff, but man, I’m asking him to do everything except this press conference right now.”
Winston loves to talk about how much he has learned from Izzo, and Wednesday night was no exception.
“He’s great at pushing me,” Winston said. “My whole time, he’s been pushing me, and that’s a product of where I’m at now. Just always being pushed, constantly getting better.”
Senior guard Matt McQuaid may have summed it up best when asked about his backcourt mate.
“He’s the best point guard in the country,” McQuaid said.