EAST LANSING — A packed Breslin Center crowd stood on their feet, hands clapping and voices exploding as Michigan State’s senior point guard Cassius Winston checked out of the home opener.
His 17 points and 11 assists was a stat line that would perhaps normally get an ovation anyways.
But nothing like this one.
Less than a day after the news broke of his younger brother, Zachary Winston’s passing on Saturday night, Winston laced them up for the Green and White. And he was extraordinary, especially given the circumstances.
His burst helped the Spartans to a monstrous 100-47 win over the Binghamton Bearcats on a somber Sunday evening.
Most were wondering if he would play, having dealt with such tragedy on such short notice. How in the world could he play and play well? We may never know the true answer from Winston, as he himself didn’t speak publicly after the game.
But despite the heartbreak and seemingly insurmountable sorrow, the Michigan State basketball culture of brotherhood prevailed once more. And Winston’s teammates knew exactly what they had to do to make sure of it.
“Every time we left the huddle it was always about family,” Spartans center Xavier Tillman said after the emotional win. “It was always about being together.”
Winston has been known for his tremendous relationship with his brothers. We were able to see the bond on display during the exhibition game between the Spartans and the Albion Britons just a couple of weeks ago, as both Zachary and Khy Winston were on Albion’s roster.
Coach Tom Izzo gave an emotionally-loaded postgame press conference. Amid many questions about the response to adversity from his point guard and other players, Izzo had one underlying message.
“When you leave here tonight — whoever it is, son or daughter, older mother or father, wife or husband — it’d do you good to tell them you love them and appreciate them,” Izzo said. “So I told my team after, I love every one of them.”
The Spartans will keep their support flying high for their star player as time attempts to heal.