For senior guard Cassius Winston, Michigan State’s 87-69 victory over Michigan included a few milestones.
Earning a fourth straight victory over his rival, Winston earned a career high 32 points on nine assists. He also passed Denzel Valentine on MSU’s all-time scoring list, taking over the No. 11 spot.
And while Winston’s two three-point makes incited the returning Izzone students and Breslin crowd to become “so loud where I couldn't hear,” according to sophomore forward Gabe Brown, it was he and fellow sophomore forward Marcus Bingham Jr. who enjoyed a milestone of their own.
Coach Tom Izzo’s coaching frustrations, this game, targeted Bingham, as he expressed his displeasure in the first half and their challenge to him at halftime.
“I think we've got a long way to go yet,” Izzo said. “I think, Marcus (Bingham), that first half, he might as well just sit here. (Michigan center Jon) Teske, why don't you just throw a layup in or dunk it.”
Jon Teske’s 11 points on 4-of-8 from the field in the first half prompted Izzo to resort to even freshman forward Julius Marble as an interior defensive counter, as the Dallas Jesuit product played sparingly through the first 14 games.
But it wasn’t all bad. Amid his defensive struggles, Bingham Jr. flashed skill the Spartans would love to see more of, receiving a feed from Winston and hitting a three with just over a minute before halftime and to momentarily stretch the lead to 13.
At this point last year, Bingham Jr., and his roommate Brown, were merely role players. Brown would hit an occasional three off the bench, and talk of Bingham Jr.'s role always pointed to the distant future. Brown averaged 2.3 points and 1.2 rebounds, while Bingham Jr. averaged 1.1 rebounds on eight minutes.
The forwards’ effect on MSU’s first of three wins over the Wolverines in 2019 was nothing more than towel-waving and postgame celebrating.
This time, Bingham Jr. emphatically high-fived Winston after hitting the three, while Brown nearly brought the Breslin Center down with him late in the first half as he went for a dunk attempt over East Lansing High School graduate Brandon Johns Jr.
The two each had their struggles, as Brown fell victim to junior forward Xavier Tillman’s visible scrutiny after failing to box out on a rebound, but after hoping for even a slightly expanded role from that of last year, their time has come, possibly earlier then they could realize.
“I'm just taking in the moment at this point,” Brown said. “I mean, coach has given me the opportunity and I'll just try to seize the moment.”
When asked how meaningful it was to finally be on the court with his roommate in a pivotal game as this one was, Bingham Jr. glowed.
“We talked about that last night. Last year it was kind of weird cause like we didn't (play),” Bingham said. “But like now we're in the game. It was kind of different as far as like watching and spectating … It was a big moment for me and Gabe. It was our first time actually playing against Michigan in the game.”