Michigan State is back in the Sweet 16.
After failing to get out of the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament in each of the previous three seasons, No. 2 Michigan State started quickly, then followed star guard Cassius Winston to a 70-50 victory over No. 10 Minnesota in the East Region at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines, Iowa.
Michigan State (30-6) advances to the regional semifinals for the 14th time under coach Tom Izzo and for the first time since 2015, when the Spartans reached the Final Four. The Spartans will take on No. 3 LSU on Friday in Washington at Capital One Arena.
Winston finished with 13 points and nine assists, but his seven straight points in the second half — after Minnesota had cut Michigan State’s lead down to single digits — allowed the Spartans to pull away.
His seven points started a 9-0 run that became a 12-2 surge as Michigan State went up, 52-33, with 10:53 to play on a 3-pointer from Aaron Henry.
Xavier Tillman led the Spartans with 14 points, while Henry had nine points and nine rebounds.
Amir Coffey did his best to keep Minnesota (22-14) in the game, scoring 27 as the already short-handed Golden Gophers were without Jordan Murphy, who played only four minutes because of a bad back. Isaiah Washington scored 11.
Michigan State could do no wrong early in the game, making nine of its first 10 shots and going 13-for-16 to open a 20-point lead after Nick Ward scored on a layup to give the Spartans a 31-11 lead with six minutes left in the first half.
But the Spartans’ 11 turnovers in the first half led to 12 points for the Gophers. Michigan State’s only points over the final six minutes of the half came when Henry scored after a Ward miss as Minnesota took advantage, pulling to within 33-19 by halftime.
Almost four minutes into the second half, Minnesota started to chip away at the lead and got the pro-Gophers crowd to come to their feet.
An 8-0 run that included six points from Coffey got Minnesota to within 40-31, but Winston then hit two mid-range jumpers, then a 3-pointer in transition to turn back the Minnesota comeback.
—Field Level Media