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Winston outduels Happ as No. 11 Michigan State beats No. 20 Wisconsin

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MADISON, Wis. — Michigan State coach Tom Izzo called it grit. Perhaps no Spartan embodied that more Tuesday night than his point guard.

Cassius Winston scored 23 points to help No. 11 Michigan State beat 20th-ranked Wisconsin 67-59.

In doing so, the Michigan State (20-5, 11-3 Big Ten) star outdueled Wisconsin’s Ethan Happ, who scored 20 points and grabbed 12 rebounds.

Izzo said it wasn’t just Winston’s effort on the offensive end that was key Tuesday, saying his point guard’s ability to lock down shooters on the outside ensure the Spartans didn’t have to stretch their defense, which would have helped open up the inside.

That perimeter defense also helped limit starting Wisconsin guards D’Mitrik Trice and Brad Davison to 11 points on 4 of 18 shooting.

“The ball is in his hands, I trust it,” Izzo said of Winston. “He made a couple of big, big plays tonight, that’s for sure.”

At times, the game seemed like a contest between the two heavyweights as Winston regularly answered Happ hook shots with a floater or 3-pointer.

But Wisconsin (17-7, 9-4) staggered down the stretch, going more than five minutes without a point as the Spartans put the game away.

“The whole night, we were throwing punches back and forth,” Happ said. “We felt we were in position to win the whole time.”

The game was still in doubt with 32 seconds to go before Kenny Goins hit a 3-pointer to give the Spartans a 62-56 lead. Wisconsin was then forced to foul, and Davison finally broke the Badgers’ scoreless streak making a 3-pointer with 10 seconds left.

Goins and Nick Ward each added 12 points for the Spartans, while Wisconsin’s Nate Reuvers was the only other player in double figures for scoring at 11.

As dominant as Happ was at times, he accounted for six of the Badgers’ 10 turnovers. He also missed all six free throw attempts he took, including two with the Badgers down 59-56 and 1:28 left.

The struggles at the free throw line have become a recurring theme for Happ this season. He’s now shooting less than 45 percent from the foul line, and was 1 for 7 in a 59-52 loss to Minnesota in early January.

“It’s not the lack of every feasible resource available as he’s worked on things,” said Wisconsin coach Greg Gard. “You gotta continue to chip away and hope there’s a breakthrown, continue to work with him. The biggest thing is you support him. He does so many good things for us.”

HAPP ON THE RISE

Happ’s 20 points put him at 2,000 for his career as he became the fourth player in the Big Ten — and the first in more than 35 years — to hit that mark and grab 1,000 rebounds. He also took over solo third place on Wisconsin’s all-time assists list on the Badgers’ first basket of the night as he found Nate Reuvers on the perimeter for a 3-pointer.

TO THE MONITORS

The referees went to the monitors twice for reviews, issuing a flagrant one on Michigan State’s Matt McQuaid the first half and deciding there was nothing more than a common foul on the second. In the first half, McQuaid held Brevin Pritzl by the jersey as the guard went up in the lane to pull in a pass. McQuaid let go as Pritzl went up for the shot, which he missed. Following the review, Pritzl got two free throws, both of which he hit, and Wisconsin got the ball, which resulted in a Pritzl 3. The referees went to the monitors again as Davison and McQuaid jostled in the block and then Davison went around McQuaid for a missed layup with 5:21 left. After review, the referees decided there was no hook and hold on Davison, who hit 1 of 2 from the line for the common foul on McQuaid. It would be the last Badgers point until Davison’s 3 with 10 seconds left.

BIG PICTURE

Michigan State: The Spartans, who had lost three in a row to start February, have now won back-to-back games.

Wisconsin: The Badgers, who had their six-game winning streak snapped on Saturday by Michigan, missed out on a chance to keep pace with the conference leaders.

UP NEXT

Michigan State: Hosts Ohio State on Sunday.

Wisconsin: Hosts Illinois on Monday.

New-look Virginia back to work after winning NCAA title

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Tony Bennett’s first offseason as a national champion coach has come with benefits on the recruiting trail. His first season at Virginia after winning the title, however, will bring challenges.

Five players who helped Virginia beat Texas Tech to capture the first basketball title in school history are gone, and that’s four more than expected. Center Jack Salt graduated, and guards De’Andre Hunter, Ty Jerome and Kyle Guy declared for the NBA draft. Seldom-used Marco Anthony transferred.

Recruiting was already well underway before the Cavaliers won it all, but Bennett said Wednesday the result “certainly can’t hurt and I think it has helped. It validates a lot of good stuff that’s happened in the past.”

Virginia hopes the spoils of those improvements are evident quickly in incoming freshmen guard Casey Morsell, big men Justin McKoy and Kadin Shedrick and junior college shooting guard Tomas Woldetensae.

Virginia opened its summer practice period on Tuesday, and Bennett said he’s not sure just yet who will be ready to contribute.

“Everyone will have ample opportunity, the newcomers, so to speak,” he said. “To say who, you just don’t know. … There are some opportunities out there. So it’s the returners and we can go down the list of the guys we brought in, but I think they’re excited about the opportunity.

“There’s always a learning curve any time you go from whether it’s high school to college or junior college to college or coming from a redshirt to being eligible. … Going up a level and playing in the ACC, for any of these guys, there’s the challenge of the physicality and the level of talent and the speed.”

Woldetensae, a left-handed shooter, averaged 17.3 points per game and shot 47.6 percent from 3-point range last season at Indian Hills Community College.

“We thought we needed to add some experience and a quality player on the perimeter and when he was mentioned and we did our homework and watched film and all those kinds of things,” he said. “His personality came out as a young man of character and we always start there. He seemed wanting to challenge himself at a very high level.”

The Cavaliers were delighted that Mamadi Diakite decided to come back for his senior year after testing the professional waters. And they added senior transfer Sam Hauser, who averaged 14.9 points and 7.2 rebounds last season at Marquette. Hauser will be eligible to practice with the team, but won’t be able to play until 2020-21.

Bennett’s offseason included numerous speaking engagements, recruiting, talking to NBA scouts about his players and some time to decompress.

He also checked an item off his bucket list when, with his father, longtime college coach Dick Bennett, he played Augusta National Golf Club, home of The Masters. That, he said, “was amazing.”

Now, it’s back to work.

“I’m grateful for the busy-ness of it,” he said of the offseason. “It means something good happened.”

Four-star forward commits to West Virginia

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West Virginia landed a top-75 recruit Thursday night.

Isaiah Cottrell, a 6-foot-9 forward from Bishop Gorman in Las Vegas, committed to West Virginia’s 2020 recruiting class.

Cottrell picked the Mountaineers overs offers from the likes of Kansas, Washington and Arizona, among others. His father, Brian Lewin, played for West Virginia in the 1990s. The four-star prospect continues a promising recruiting trend for Bob Huggins, who landed a top-40 commit in center Oscar Tshiebwe in the 2019 class.

The Mountaineers missed the NCAA tournament last season for the first time in four years as they slid to 15-21 overall and last in the Big 12 with a 4-14 mark.

John Calipari’s new deal at Kentucky worth $86 million over 10 years

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John Calipari and Kentucky agreed in April to what was described as a “lifetime contract.” Thursday, the exact terms of that deal were disclosed.

The Wildcats coach’s new contract worth $86 million over 10 years.

“I’ve said from day one that this would be the gold standard and it has been for student-athletes and coaches,” Calipari said in a statement released by the school. “As I enter my 11th year, I’m reminded it took me 20 years to get an opportunity to like this. There is no other place I want to be. As I look forward, my mindset is what’s next and how can we be first at it for the young people that we coach.”

Calipari, 60, will likely continue to be a source of speculation for other jobs presuming he keeps things rolling in Lexington as he has for the last 10 years, but what Kentucky is paying him will almost certainly be more than any other program – and potentially NBA franchises – are going to be willing to. Calipari’s success, NBA history and ability to always be central to the broader college basketball conversation means he’ll always be in demand, but it’s hard to picture a situation that could intrigue Calipari enough to leave one of – if not the – best jobs in basketball.

“(Calipari) has added a special chapter to the greatest tradition in college basketball and it’s a chapter we want him to continue writing until the end of his coaching career,” Kentucky athletic director Mitch Barnhart said in a statement. “We are pleased to announce a new contract that will enable him to do exactly that.”

Calipari 305-71 with one national championship, four Final Fours and 26 first-round draft picks in 10 years with the Wildcats. He and Kentucky will likely open the 2019-20 season as one of the frontrunners for the national championship.

Michigan State reports violation for Tom Izzo hosting visit for former high school

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Michigan State self-reported an NCAA rules violation for Tom Izzo hosting Iron Mountain High School for a tour while the team was in town to compete for its first ever state title that weekend.

Izzo unknowingly committed the violation — which only occurred because Iron Mountain was competing in the Breslin Center that weekend — and the Spartans immediately gave notice once they became aware of it. Proud of his alma mater for advancing to Michigan’s final weekend, Izzo was merely taking interest in players and a team connected to his youth. The Iron Mountain program toured the Breslin Center with Izzo and toured Michigan State’s locked room while also watching the Spartans practice before their state semifinal game.

Since it was a special privilege for Iron Mountain, playing in an event there, the Spartans were technically at fault for a violation. The fact that Izzo and Michigan State have to report a violation for this sort of thing is kind of ridiculous since Izzo has a natural connection to the team in question. Although Michigan State likely isn’t going to get hit with any NCAA issues from this, it’s the kind of thing that critics come to question about the NCAA’s rulebook.

Former lacrosse star Pat Spencer commits to Northwestern for basketball

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Northwestern landed a unique graduate transfer on Thursday as Loyola lacrosse star Pat Spencer will spend his final year of college eligibility hooping for the Wildcats, according to Stadium’s Jeff Goodman.

A former high school basketball standout at Boys’ Latin (MD), Spencer was one of the best lacrosse players in the country for the Greyhounds the past four years in college. He was selected in two drafts during the Spring. Spencer was taken first overall in the inaugural PLL College Draft while getting taken seventh overall in the MLL’s Collegiate Draft. Loyola remains in the NCAA tournament as Spencer is playing out his senior season of college.

Spencer is passing up multiple professional lacrosse opportunities to play Big Ten basketball for Northwestern. For a stud athlete in a sport to pass up money to pursue another athletic dream is one of the college basketball’s best things to follow next season.

As if Spencer’s background wasn’t unique enough, he’ll be at a Northwestern team starving for an identity since making the NCAA tournament a few seasons ago. By playing in the Big Ten, Spencer will be thrown against Final Four contenders and potential draft picks, which makes this transition particularly intriguing. It’s a cool story to follow this season as college hoops doesn’t often get athletes from other sports playing in such prominent conferences.

Greg Paulus famously went from Duke point guard to Syracuse quarterback as a graduate transfer, but he was leaving the sport to pursue an opportunity to play football. Spencer choosing basketball over a sure pro shot in lacrosse is an interesting opportunity for him this season. It’ll be interesting to see if he can still contribute anything on the hardwood.

(Ht: Jeff Goodman, Stadium)