Sunday, September 27, 2020

Michigan State rolls, Xavier Tillman has career night against Charleston Southern

November 18, 2019
<p>Junior forward Xavier Tillman (23) dunks the ball during the game against the Charleston Southern Buccaneers on Nov. 18, 2019 at Breslin Center. The Spartans defeated the Buccaneers, 94-46.</p>

Junior forward Xavier Tillman (23) dunks the ball during the game against the Charleston Southern Buccaneers on Nov. 18, 2019 at Breslin Center. The Spartans defeated the Buccaneers, 94-46.

Photo by Annie Barker | The State News

No. 3 Michigan State (3-1) cruised past Charleston Southern (1-4) in a 94-46 rout Monday night.

Sophomore forward Gabe Brown made his first collegiate start as fellow second-year wing Aaron Henry continues to recover from injuries to both ankles suffered at Seton Hall.

Brown made good of the extra opportunities, flying in for three dunks, two of which came on feeds from senior point guard Cassius Winston, to finish with 12 points and six rebounds.

Henry was dressed and active in shootaround and did not record any minutes but had an impact on the game that resonated with Brown especially.

"It was kind of nervous because I never started before, so it was kind of nervous just being out there," Brown said. "(Henry) helped me in a lot of ways today. You probably didn't see it, but he was talking to me the whole time. Like 'get up on a ball screen, you got to knock down this shot, you got to knock down this shot, you're open, good shot.' Things like that. (Henry) was there for me today. That's what really meant a lot to me."

Junior forward Xavier Tillman ignited the Breslin Center with an electric spin move and finish for the Spartans’ first points of the contest. Tillman did much of what he did last season, receiving feeds in the lane from Winston throughout the contest for high-percentage finishes.

"It just felt good capitalizing on a lot of opportunities that I had," Tillman said. "It felt good that my teammates and coaches wanted to keep feeding me."

The Grand Rapids product finished with a game and career-high 21 points and added 10 rebounds.

The story of the first half and headliner of the season so far remained freshman guard Rocket Watts and his shooting struggles. The Detroit native appeared to be more comfortable and aggressive with the ball in his hands, but his shooting woes bled into the fourth consecutive contest, resulting in an 0-for-4 night from long range and 4-14 shooting overall.

"I have been impressed with that," Izzo said when asked what he's seen of Watts' resilience. "And he took one or two bad shots. I said that wasn't a good shot. He said, 'well, you told me to be aggressive.' And I said, 'What does aggressive mean?' ... So you know, he's learning me, I'm learning him. But what I really did like he got some big-time rebounds, came out of there with them. He got some really nice assists, and he didn't even have the ball in his hands as much."

Despite struggling from the field, Watts recorded a career-high in points, reaching double digits for the first time with 11 while adding seven rebounds and six assists.

"I played a couple of games, and I feel like my all-around game is coming to me like rebounding and getting my teammates involved and also just being around good guys," Watts said. "They just keep telling me to keep shooting the ball, keep my confidence. Without those guys, I wouldn't have had confidence because I kind of lost it at the beginning. So you know, got it back."

Freshman forward Julius Marble continues to show fluidity on the block, creating and making his only shot attempt in the half and contesting shots without fouling. The Dallas native added three second half buckets, including an emphatic slam in the final minute to finish with nine points.

Senior forward Kyle Ahrens remains encouraging from beyond the arc, going 2-of-3 to finish with six points.

If his coming out party in Newark wasn’t enough, freshman Malik Hall continued to build a strong case for Izzo’s answer at power forward. The do-everything man for MSU went up for a strong rebound and finished a putback through contact and finished with six points and four rebounds.

Dontrell Shuler led the way for the Buccaneers with 15 points, but this one was all Spartans.

Winston addressed the Breslin Center following the game in his first public statement since the death of his brother Zachary.

"Especially today, where a lot of people have egos and are trying to score the most points, we're in a situation where — a lucky situation — where it's like whoever's going, wherever's the open man, we're just constantly making the right play and that's how you win big games," Winston said.

Michigan State will continue the Maui Invitational on Nov. 25 when they face Virginia Tech (5 p.m./ESPN2).


Share and discuss “Michigan State rolls, Xavier Tillman has career night against Charleston Southern” on social media.