It took some time, but once Michigan State got its offense rolling Thursday, there was nothing that could stop it.
After a slugging first half when the Spartans made just 2 of 19 attempts from 3-point range, junior point guard Cassius Winston sparked a second-half surge that helped No. 11 Michigan State knock off Louisiana-Monroe 80-59 on Wednesday in East Lansing, Mich.
Winston finished with 23 points, but it was his play in the first four minutes of the second half that made the difference. Winston scored 14 of Michigan State’s first 16 points as he made three consecutive 3-pointers to push the Spartans’ lead to 51-35. A dish to sophomore Xavier Tillman for a layup on the next possession gave Michigan State an 18-point lead, its largest of the game.
Michigan State played short-handed much of the game after junior big man Nick Ward sustained what appeared to be an injury to his right ankle less than eight minutes into the game and did not return.
Tillman picked up most of Ward’s minutes and finished with 11 points and 13 rebounds. Junior Joshua Langford added 16 points for the Spartans (2-1) while senior Kenny Goins had 15 rebounds.
Junior guard JD Williams scored 25 for ULM (2-2) while sophomore guard Michael Ertel scored 20.
The Spartans couldn’t buy a shot in the opening 20 minutes, going 11 of 39 from the field.
Louisiana-Monroe took advantage with an early 8-0 run that gave the Warhawks a 14-13 lead less than eight minutes into the game. Michigan State scored five quick points to retake the lead but Louisiana-Monroe was back on top 20-18 after back-to-back 3-pointers from Ertel.
The Spartans eventually scratched out the lead by scoring the next six points then doing a good job of getting to the free-throw line in the final minutes, eventually taking a 35-29 lead to the locker room as Langford scored eight points.
Williams had 15 first-half points for Louisiana-Monroe while Ertel scored 10.
By the time the second half was just more than four minutes old, Michigan State had broken the game open. The lead grew to as much as 21 in the second half as the Spartans shot 54.8 percent after the break.
The Warhawks were just 5 of 19 from 3-point range while Michigan State was 6 of 29. The Spartans outrebounded ULM 51-37.
—Field Level Media