EditorsNote: Added Omoruyi’s 11 rebounds in 4th graf; changed time to 11:56 in 7th graf; changed time to 3:40 in last graf
After spending the week on the road, No. 9 Michigan State earned a split on Friday night by beating Rutgers 78-67 in the Big Ten opener in Piscataway, N.J.
Just three days after losing in overtime at Louisville, the Spartans overcame a slow start to win in front of a raucous Scarlet Knights crowd.
Cassius Winston scored 22 points and Nick Ward had 20 for Michigan State (6-2, 1-0 Big Ten), while Joshua Langford scored 14 and Xavier Tillman scored 11 as Michigan State played without senior guard Matt McQuaid for the second straight game. Winston added six assists while Tillman had eight rebounds.
Eugene Omoruyi scored 16 with 11 rebounds for Rutgers (5-2, 0-1). Peter Kiss added 11 points, and Geo Baker scored 10 for the Scarlet Knights.
It did not take Michigan State long to realize it was in a fight as Rutgers opened an 18-10 lead just more than five minutes into the game, as Baker hit a pair of deep 3-pointers along with two from Kiss. But the Spartans answered with a 9-0 run to grab their first lead at 19-18 before pulling back ahead, 25-23, on a drive and layup from Tillman.
It was back-and-forth the rest of the half from there, as Rutgers kept possessions alive by grabbing nine offensive rebounds in the first half. The Spartans turned to Winston, who scored seven of Michigan State’s final nine points in the half, the last three on a deep triple at the end of the shot clock to take a 39-37 lead at the break.
Michigan State had all the momentum early in the second half as a 12-1 run came in response to a 3 from Kiss to open the half. Ward scored the first six points for the Spartans, but some missed layups allowed Rutgers to hang around and begin to chip away. They cut the lead to 51-44 with 11:56 to play, but a big play by freshman Aaron Henry turned the momentum back in Michigan State’s favor.
With the shot clock winding down, Henry blocked a 3-point attempt by Rutgers’ Caleb McConnell, grabbed the ball and raced the length of the court for a layup. He was fouled and made the free throw to put the Spartans back up by 10 with 10:35 left in the game.
Michigan State extended the lead to 59-46, but a six-point trip got the Scarlet Knights back in the game. Baker hit a jumper, and on the shot, the Spartans’ Kyle Ahrens was called for a flagrant foul. Rutgers hit two free throws, then got a put-back dunk to trim its deficit to 59-52.
A triple from Issa Thiam narrowed the margin to 63-57, but the Spartans scored the next five, including a three-point play from Winston, to push the lead to 68-57 with 4:22 to play. A 3-pointer from Winston made it 71-57 with 3:36 to play, and Michigan State salted it away from there.
—Field Level Media