One voice stood out to senior guard Cassius Winston in a Breslin Center crowd that struck near deafening all night.
“Cassius,” squeaked a small girl’s voice. “Can I have your headband?”
Winston, who didn’t look up from the floor as the final seconds ran down in his teams 75-70 loss against Penn State Tuesday, finally raised his head.
He found the girl, threw his headband and continued parading through fans, despite an ending to a game that couldn’t have gone any less in the Detroit native’s favor.
“Just give people a little inspiration, a little happiness, a little joy,” Winston said of his post-game interactions. “Hopefully she found some happiness from it. If I can do that, and I’m in a position to make somebody’s day or make somebody have a better day, then I’m always going to do that.”
All eyes were on the six foot, one inch Spartan superstar as Michigan State rallied to protect their home court after playing catch-up most of the game against the Nittany Lions.
In an almost picture-perfect ending, Winston found his way up the paint and stretched his hands through the dominant Penn State bigs to sink a layup that put his team down by one while earning himself a trip to the line that would have tied it.
But it wasn’t perfect. Winston went down hard after his layup and shot an uncharacteristic free throw that deflected off the backboard.
“It’s tough, especially a free throw,” Winston said. “That’s the shot that you probably want to tie a game or win a game … It felt good, my mind felt good, I wasn’t nervous or anything like that, it was a free throw. I let it go (and) it hit the back rim. I was a little shocked.”
Seconds later, a pair of free-throws by Penn State senior forward Lamar Stevens put the Nittany Lions up by a three-point basket, and Winston wanted revenge.
He took the ball up court, stopped, looked and launched. For the first time all night, the Breslin Center fell quiet, but just like the free throw — something was off.
“That last shot, it (was) a shot that I make. I got a good look, just didn't knock it down,” Winston said. “Things like that happen, there’s other ways we could have won the game.”
The pressure on Winston in the game final moments wasn't anything new. Winston was essentially the team's only offensive hope against Penn State, being the only Spartan to put up double digits. Winston sunk a game-high 25 points while adding nine assists during his 37 minutes of game time. Junior forward Xavier Tillman acknowledged that he and his team need to take the pressure off of Winston's back.
“I need to do a better job of that to where he only has to take 15 good shots where we actually get him open on the screen," junior forward Xavier Tillman said. "We need to take some more pressure off him for sure.”
Michigan State will look to snap their two-game losing streak when they travel to in-state rival Michigan on Saturday.