Winston’s 26 points lead MSU to win over in-state Grizzlies

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Cassius Winston/Photo: MSU Athletic Communications

EAST LANSING, Mich. — By the time Greg Kampe walked into the postgame press conference, he had the temperament of a man who had just seen a winter storm. He looked down at the box score in front of him and made a statement that would be music to the ears of Tom Izzo’s coaching staff.

“I don’t know about you guys, but I’ve been around for a long time,” Kampe said. “I’ve never looked at a stat sheet and seen 47 fast-break points.”

Transition offense was the difference for Michigan State on Friday night as the Spartans knocked off Oakland, 99-69. MSU’s Cassius Winston led all scorers with 26 points, scoring 7 in the first three minutes of the second half to put the game out of reach. By the time Xavier Hill-Mais fouled out for OU with 7:52 remaining, the Grizzlies just couldn’t match MSU down the stretch.

Hill-Mais is OU’s leading scorer and chipped in with 17 points of his own, but MSU went on a 15-0 run after he fouled out to change the scoreline from tight and chippy to standard-fare blowout. Oakland shot the ball well enough in the middle section of the second half to cut the lead down, something that MSU head coach Tom Izzo clearly noted.

“The effort wasn’t there tonight,” Izzo said postgame. “The defense wasn’t as good, the rebounding wasn’t good the whole night.” OU led the rebounding battle for a good chunk of the game until Hill-Mais fouled out, and MSU allowed 11 offensive rebounds to a team not known for getting to the glass offensively.

This was Winston’s game in the second half, getting to the basket to make a pair of early shots in the paint and hitting from the outside at a clip that reminded observers of last year’s Winston, the one that made 50 percent of his 3-point attempts.

“Offensively he was ready to shoot, I thought we did a good job finding him,” Izzo said. “He pushed the ball pretty hard at the beginning and I thought he made a couple nice floaters. The passing and the way our guys move the ball around the perimeter, he had some wide-open threes.”

MSU held a 45-32 lead at halftime despite forward Nick Ward getting two early fouls. Sophomore Xavier Tillman made the most of his six first-half minutes, picking up four assists while Ward was on the bench. Freshman Thomas Kithier made a pair of nice assists to Josh Langford and Kenny Goins to bring the lead back up after OU had cut it to 11 with 1:46 left.

Ward finished with just 14 points in 20 minutes as he stayed in foul trouble after the break.

Langford chipped in with 12 points on 4-of-9 shooting, and Matt McQuaid hit three 3-pointers to add 9 points of his own.

Oakland’s freshman guard Braden Norris started to get hot from outside late in the game, as he led OU with 18 points, hitting 6 of 7 3-point attempts. Despite outside threat Jaevin Cumberland making a pair of shots early, the junior was held to just 12 points on the night.

MSU heads into Christmas 10-2 on the year following the win, and won’t play again until next Saturday, when they host Northern Illinois. Tipoff from the Breslin Center is scheduled for 2 p.m. on Dec. 28.