PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Cassius Winston scored 12 of his career-high 28 points during a 4-minute span late in the second half to help No. 4 Michigan State pull away for a 77-57 victory over Connecticut on Friday night to reach the championship game of the PK80 Invitational.
Winston was responsible for 14 of Michigan State’s 16 points during the spurt where Michigan State hit eight straight shots and took a 14-point lead. Winston started the run with a 3-pointer and scored on pull-up jumpers and driving layups as the Spartans finally shook the Huskies.
Winston was 12-of-15 shooting and for the second straight game the Spartans (4-1) got a big contribution from and unexpected source to help make up for star Miles Bridges being limited. Michigan State made 10 straight shots until Joshua Langford missed with 2:15 remaining.
The Spartans will face No. 9 North Carolina in the title game of the “Victory Bracket” on Sunday night.
Jalen Adams led UConn (4-1) with 22 points and Terry Larrier added 18. The Huskies struggled to get clean looks against Michigan State’s smothering defense that held UConn to 35 percent shooting.
Michigan State pulled away with Bridges not very involved in the outcome. The preseason All-America returned after sitting out Thursday’s tournament opener against DePaul with a sprained left ankle suffered last Sunday. Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said Bridges was close to playing against the Blue Demons, but the extra day of rest would help.
Bridges didn’t start for the Spartans but subbed in with 16:09 left in the first half. He played in just brief spurts in the first half, finishing with only 5 minutes because of foul trouble, but was on the court when the second half began. He finished with six points and eight rebounds in 17 minutes despite his movement still appearing limited because of the ankle.
Jaren Jackson Jr. added 12 points and 10 rebounds, and Nick Ward had 11 points as the Spartans outscored UConn 40-14 in the paint.
UConn: The Huskies simply didn’t have any interior presence against the Spartans. UConn’s starting forwards — Tyler Polley and David Onuorah — combined to be held scoreless, although Polley played just 8 minutes.
Michigan State: Winston’s previous career-high was 21 points against Northeastern last season. He has scored in double figures in every game this season except the Spartans only loss to Duke. He had 11 assists in that game.
UConn: The Huskies will take on Arkansas on Sunday.
Michigan State: The Spartans will face No. 9 North Carolina on Sunday night.
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