It took 26 points and four assists from Cassius Winston, who sparked a late 16-5 run that gave the Spartans the lead for good, but Michigan State avoided suffering their second first round loss as a No. 2-seed with a 76-65 win over Bradley.
For 35 minutes, the Braves were the better team. They made six of their first nine threes and smothered Michigan State’s ball-screen offense as they led by six points in the first half and remained within striking distance until the final minutes.
To be frank, Michigan State looked tired.
This is a team that doesn’t have all that much depth after the injuries that they have dealt with this season, and they are just three days removed from playing three games in three days to win the Big Ten tournament title. It’s not a secret that Winston has to carry an enormous load for this group, but he wasn’t the only one that looked gassed. Kenny Goins was 1-for-10 from the floor and 0-for-7 from three. Matt McQuaid didn’t really get it going until the second half. Nick Ward and Aaron Henry spent more time getting screamed at by Tom Izzo that they did playing well.
The question you have to ask is whether or not winning the Big Ten tournament will end up costing the Spartans in the long run.
And with another game tipping off in just 24 hours — against a Minnesota team that beat up on Louisville today — the situation isn’t ideal.
Michigan State did beat Minnesota by 24 points the first times these two teams played this season, but that was at a time when the Golden Gophers were still figuring out their point guard situation.
They have an answer now.
And on Saturday we’ll find out if that changes things.