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Goins boosts MSU in win over Wisconsin in Big Ten Tournament semifinals

March 16, 2019
Senior forward Kenny Goins (25) brings the ball up court against Wisconsin. The Spartans beat the Badgers, 67-55, at the United Center on March 16, 2019.
Senior forward Kenny Goins (25) brings the ball up court against Wisconsin. The Spartans beat the Badgers, 67-55, at the United Center on March 16, 2019. —
Photo by Matt Zubik | The State News

CHICAGO — It's almost become habitual for Kenny Goins.

He finds a spot behind the arc in transition, catch, shoot, watch it go in. It's exactly what happened for the 6 foot, 8 inch forward on Saturday, who finished 4-of-7 from 3 with 13 points in top-seeded MSU's 67-55 win over No. 4 Wisconsin at the United Center.

"I saw it in Kenny’s eyes, he was locked in," forward Xavier Tillman, who scored 17, said. "He wanted to be the guy ... today."

Though Goins wasn't MSU's best scorer offensively, the senior accounted for four of the team's nine 3-pointers and had a game-high 12 rebounds in 36 minutes.

Goins said he's reluctant to take all the credit and insists most of his success is dependent on point guard Cassius Winston, who had led all scorers with 21 points against the Badgers.

"It’s kind of been the same thing all year — the benefactor of having the Player of the Year on my team," Goins said of Winston, who finished with the top individual conference honor from coaches and media. "He put me in a good position with some open shots. It was my job to knock them down."

Goins made his first three shots to help give MSU (27-6) an 18-4 lead at the 14:00 mark in the first half. His final 3 arguably helped the Spartans put the game away for good after Wisconsin (23-10) reduced a 17-point deficit down to six.

The shot put MSU back up 52-43 with 9:12 to play and came at the beginning of a seven-plus minute scoring drought for the Badgers.

For the season, Goins entered Saturday shooting 38.0 percent from 3, but over his last 13 games, Goins is averaging 2.3 triples per game and 51.4 percent from deep. Coach Tom Izzo said he'd have never guessed that Goins, a former walk-on, would become one of MSU's most impactful players.

"Kenny has probably been the guy that's changed our team throughout the last two and a half months," Izzo said. "He is one of our best defenders. He is our best rebounder. He is maybe our best-conditioned guy and he has really figured out how to shoot the ball and does it with a high percentage."

Even if he misses, Goins is confident he's been good enough late to try again when the chance arises.

"You have to have the confidence that if you’re going to miss one or two, you go to back to it," Goins said. Especially playing with NBA rims which are a little different but to hit the first one or two always feels great."

If Goins keeps it up, Izzo said the soon-departing forward shouldn't rule out the possibility of playing professionally.

"Kenny deserves a lot more than I've probably given him, but I think Kenny is putting himself in a position where there's going to be some basketball for him after college," Izzo said.

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