TO CLOSE

LSJ columnist Graham Couch, Beat Beat writer Chris Solari and Fast columnist Shawn Windsor unveil the incredible MSU night
Graham Couch and Chris Solari and Shawn Windsor, Lansing State Journal

EAST LANSING – Cassius Winston has moved like an old man in the locker room after the game on Saturday night.

"I know," he said, chuckling.

You're okay? I asked.

"Yes, I'm fine," he replied in a soft tone that said he knew exactly where I was coming from. "A whole lot of adrenaline. It was a must-win, so had to do it. "

What he did. Winston's remarkable arrival in Michigan State's 75-63 win over Michigan will remain one of the big closing performances in the MSU's basketball history.

I do not believe him when he says he does not suffer from knee tendonitis, especially his right knee. You can see it in the way he worked in the field and when he winced from time to time. When he insisted that his knees do not bother him, "No, not tonight, not tonight. No, I was good tonight. I could see him in his honest eyes, looking at me as if to say, "Forgive me. You know I can not be quite open here.

But I believe him when he says that he can get through. It would be foolish not to do what we have just seen from the MSU junior leader, after the brilliant performance of more than 20 Big Ten games, averaging 19.6 points and a record 7.9 assists ( and by far). And after those last 10 minutes Saturday night, when a man who should have been worn danced between Wolverine defenders and around them.

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On the left, Michigan State's Cassius Winston shoots for Colin Castleton's Michigan defenseman on Saturday, March 9, 2019, at the East Lansing Breslin Center. (Photo: Nick King / Lansing State Journal)

MSU's victory on Saturday night was both the culmination of the team's "footprint" as Tom Izzo described it, and a moment to pause and catch his breath before the next weeks. which will mark the legacy. This footprint will hold, to a certain extent, regardless of what will happen from now on because I do not think that a fan of Spartan is anywhere, especially those at Breslin Center on Saturday night, does not. will never forget the feeling that this group gave them: Beat Michigan as a second time, for a Big Ten Championship, the last game of the season.

Izzo, for one, will not forget this feeling – neither in relation to last season, nor by the magnitude of the situation Saturday, nor by what his team overcame.

"I'm going to enjoy this one as I have not enjoyed any (other)," Izzo said.

That said, they must at least participate in the second weekend of the NCAA tournament to allow this footprint to really permeate. This program, along with its fan base, are waiting for him impatiently.

"We have a nice little week before three games (the Big Ten tournament)," Winston said. "I should be completely healed by then. And the two tournament games (NCAA) per weekend. After all that, I'm pretty sure I can organize two games per weekend. "

Once again, I do not doubt it.

MSU players have already begun to think about the NCAA tournament, including Winston. After 20 games against teams that knew them so well, they are eager to face fresh meat.

"Just throw some offensives, a few games, get some easy buckets because the teams have not seen us, they do not know our staff," said Winston. "We had the opportunity to do very good things."

"I was thinking about it the other day," said Xavier Tillman, a sophomore. "I was wondering," What are the teams going to do? "I know the teams choose one or two things they're going to focus on, so maybe like Cassius on the ball screens, maybe they're going to trap or something like that." I thought somebody one should do something different, if they let us play as we play, we will be hard to beat, if you let us run in transition, if you do not crash the boards and let us run in transition, and if you do not shoot, we'll be really dead. "

Saturday night showed that again. Beyond that, this team has courage, a balance that is rarely lost. A defensive versatility that makes them more elite than they sometimes seem. They play for each other – witness Kyle Ahrens' performance on Saturday night, ignoring his beating back, hitting the ground as he ran to the defense after landing on it while scoring a basket.

"I saw the look in his eyes," said Tillman of Ahrens. "It was like," I'm not going out anyway. I do it for (Matt Mc) Quaid, for Kenny Goins. "

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Tillman, too, recognized the perilous situation the Spartans were in when they fled at 10 am early and saved MSU with his energy and defensive play.

And finally, after 30 minutes of struggle, Winston took over.

"That's what I do for this team," he said.

This is one of his roles in this category of players.

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There is no match that scares Winston into the NCAA Tournament, mainly because of the versatility of the MSU supporters. "I do not think there are a lot of looks that we can not handle," he said.

Michigan was supposed to be a tough match. Zavier Simpson was supposed to be a bad match for Winston, personally. Winston scored 11 points in the last 10 minutes, including one time driving the ball directly to Simpson and scoring over him.

After this season and these last two games against the Wolverines, Winston will become one of the best players of all time at the MSU. He is a two-time Big Ten Champion. He will be the Big Ten player of the year in a few days. He has just led the Spartans to a decisive win over their rival, giving them a share of their second consecutive Big Ten title. He became a killer of Wolverine. It's a hellish thing that deserves to be known in the MSU tradition.

Even more amazing about this performance on Saturday – he was dazzled by the last 10 minutes while he was distraught at a party where he had not the juice leg that he had done two weeks earlier in Ann Arbor.

"The reason he is, in my eyes, the most valuable player in this league, is because, when it was time to win, he really made winning games," he said. declared Izzo. "I'm proud of him, really proud of him."

The fans are too, I feel. Grateful for him, more than anything. If you had seen him walking in his locker, you would be even more surprised.

RELATED: Couch: 3 wins over MSU Big Ten win over Michigan

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Contact Graham Couch at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @ Graham_Couch.