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 – State of Michigan basketball Coach Tom Izzo did not understand what Xavier Tillman was doing in the first half Saturday against Michigan.

"X is my most cerebral, hardest and hardest guy," said Izzo. "And in the first half, I asked him what planet he was on: Pluto, Mars, Venus, United States.

"Where the hell are you?

In the second half, it was easy to find: on the edge or on the free throw line.

The sophomore scored 17 points on 4 out of 5 shots, adding 9 out of 12 free throws and scoring six rebounds in the MSU's No. 10 Big Ten, winning the 75-63 win over the No. 7 M-7. at Breslin Center.

"At half-time, everyone was held responsible for the mistakes he made," Tillman said. "And we repaired it."

Michigan State striker Xavier Tillman scores against Michigan in the second half, Saturday, March 9, 2019, at the Breslin Center in East Lansing, Mich. (Photo: Kirthmon F. Dozier, Detroit Free Press)

While Nick Ward (broken hand) was out for the fifth straight game, Tillman continued his late run for the second season in a row. The 6-foot-8 striker blocked five shots, including three in the first period against U-M goalkeeper Zavier Simpson and his rough-driving hook.

Tillman also responded to Izzo's anger after half-time with nine points and two offensive rebounds.

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"The first half, I guess it was in the niche. It's a great dog house for X – a very big house, "Izzo said. "It was not, I thought, his better half. And yet, with what does it end? … It just proves why I may be on another planet. Maybe I'm the one who's wrong. "

Nick Ward (left), Michigan State, and Joshua Langford watch before the Michigan game at the Breslin Center on March 9, 2019. (Photo: Gregory Shamus, Getty Images)

Ward is waiting

Despite the practice beginning during the week, Ward stayed outside and kept his left hand repaired surgically in an envelope and splint.

However, Izzo said that he had put the name of the junior 6-9 striker in the half-time scoring book in case he needed help in a situation. 39 urgency, although the coach stated that he had no intention of playing it.

"If I had played it, I would have taped it so that nothing could happen to it," Izzo said. "But just in case I need someone to defend myself." He says, "Coach, let me play, I'm going to put myself in." That kind of things matter a lot to a coach. I had to tell him, "No, I will not leave you." I almost gave in, but I did not do it. "

Izzo told MSU pre-match radio that he was hoping to meet Ward for the Big Ten tournament next week. The Spartans have seed number 1 and do not play until 12:30. Friday against the winner of the No. 8 Ohio State and No. 9 Indiana.

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"It 's really improved, and they feel confident enough to be ready to leave next week," Izzo said on the show. "But we will not take any chances, for Nick or in all honesty for ourselves. It's a big game, a match, but we still have a lot of season. "

Kenny Goins of Michigan State, right, hugs Matt McQuaid in the second half on Saturday, March 9, 2019, at the Breslin Center in East Lansing. (Photo: Nick King / Lansing State Journal)

Senior Moments

Kenny Goins and Matt McQuaid kept some special memories during the senior night.

The Goins reach three points, including a pair in the second half. The 6-7 forward also captured nine of his 16 rebounds, a top in the game, over the last period, including three of MSU's 11 offense boards.

"It's a perfect picture," Goins said. "We went through hell and got the better of it, and we managed the tripta with Michigan – the championship and the senior night. It's not better than that.

McQuaid scored his nine points in the second half after Izzo challenged his top four players at half-time to get out of the "fog" in which they were hired.

Cassius Winston hit McQuaid with a time of 1: 11 for a two-handed dunk in the way that sealed the victory for MSU, thus allowing him to be sure to check that he stays 13.2 seconds and kiss the Spartan helmet logo halfway through.

"He drenched him – he did not seem to want to, but he had to," Winston said with a laugh. "Just to give him this moment was amazing."

Kyle Ahrens, of central Michigan State, creates a basket between Jordan Poole (Michigan, left) and Brandon Johns Jr. during the first half, Saturday, March 9, 2019, at the Breslin Center, in East Lansing. (Photo: Nick King / Lansing State Journal)

Ahrens grinds

Junior forward Kyle Ahrens played 14 minutes and 37 seconds with a back injury after missing Tuesday's win over Nebraska.

However, he contributed two of the biggest baskets of the MSU game for his four points only.

On the first, Ahrens caught a pass from Foster Loyer in transition, then cut some U-M defensemen for a lay-up. He crashed to the ground after doing so and put himself to suffer.

More Windsor: Izzo reminds us again why we should not doubt him

It was part of a 6-0 series that reduced the Wolverines' 12-point lead to close the first half, and Ahrens played despite the pain.

Then, with Michigan leading, 48-43, with 12:48 to play, Ahrens opened a backdoor along the baseline and made a back pass for a Tillman rebound pass. The crowd went wild again and that was the start of the Spartans' 20-2 run.

"Big," said Tillman. "In the first half, he scored and fell on his back and was limping on the ground. And I do not know what made him click, but something changed in his head. I just saw the look in his eyes. He was like, "I'm not going out anyway. I'm fine, I'm fighting for that. I do it for Quaido, I do it for Kenny. "

"You could just see him, he clicked, he slapped the floor and he was all good. It was as if his back had never been hurt. He just resisted.

Contact Chris Solari at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @chrissolari. Learn more about the Michigan State Spartans and sign up for our Spartans newsletter.


Michigan State Basketball Coach, Tom Izzo, addresses the media after the 75-63 win over Michigan on Saturday, March 9, 2019, in East Lansing.
Chris Solari, Detroit Free Press