Twin Cities dancing: Michigan State Spartans knock off Duke 68-67 to advance to Minneapolis for Final Four
By STEPHEN WHYNO
AP Sports Writer
WASHINGTON — Cassius Winston missed an open jump shot but was right there for the rebound. Without hesitating, he stepped back and swished a 3-pointer.
“Now is not the time to doubt yourself,” Winston said. “Now’s not the time to shy away from those big moments.”
The biggest moment for Michigan State is still to come after Winston led the Spartans back to the Final Four for the first time since 2015.
Michigan State beat Duke 68-67 on Sunday to knock the overall top seed out of the NCAA Tournament in what likely was the end of Zion Williamson’s college career. Winston took over the game when his team faced its biggest deficit, stealing the show from Williamson with 20 points and 10 assists in a do-it-all performance fittingly with Magic Johnson there to see it.
“I was locked in,” Winston said with smile and a piece of one of the nets tucked into his Final Four hat. “I wanted to do everything I could for my team to get us to that point. We’ve been working way too hard to stop now.”
Winston didn’t know how many shots he took but never hesitated to put the ball up. He was 9 of 23 and never shied away from taking it at Duke and shooting at nearly every opportunity in the East Region final.
The Big Ten Player of the Year and East Region Most Outstanding Player made or assisted on 19 of Michigan State’s 30 field goals.
“Winston was the difference maker,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “He was either scoring or assisting. He’s the best guard we’ve played against.”
Williamson, the presumptive top pick in the NBA Draft and biggest star of this NCAA Tournament, had a game-high 24 points and 14 rebounds. He said it was a “high possibility” this was his final game at Duke.
“We’re very upset, obviously, but congrats to Michigan State,” Williamson said. “Just looking around the locker room and see your teammates, your brothers and you just think this group will probably never play together again.”
Michigan State’s veteran-laden team will have another chance Saturday in one regional semifinal against Texas Tech in Minneapolis. Virginia faces Auburn in the other.
“We’re not done yet, and it feels good,” senior guard Matt McQuaid said.