Michigan State knocked off both the Texas Longhorns and the UCLA Bruins to win the 2018 Continental Tire Las Vegas Invitational on Friday. The tournament was the Spartans’ first real test since they opened the season against the number two ranked Kansas Jayhawks with a loss back on November, 6th.
With the tournament win, the Spartans improve to 5-1 and move up two spots to number nine in the AP Top 25 rankings.
SPARTAN DAWWWWGS 🗣 pic.twitter.com/UR5b0GC4lk
— Michigan State Basketball (@MSU_Basketball) November 24, 2018
Cassius Winston was named the tournament MVP after contributing a total of 39 points and 17 assists in the two games. Joshua Langford also made strong a case for the honor, after scoring a career-high 29 points against Texas and 14 points, including three 3-pointers, against UCLA. After arguably their best performances of the season, Winston and Langford are emerging as one of the most dynamic backcourts in all of college basketball.
Comeback win against Texas
Despite winning the tournament, everything didn’t go according to plan for the Spartans. In the championship game against Texas on Friday, Michigan State fell behind by 19 points just ten minutes into the game. MSU had 11 turnovers in the first half and finished the game with a season-high 24 turnovers. The Spartans went into halftime trailing the Longhorns 44-36.
MSU was able to regroup during halftime and outscored the Longhorns 42-24 in the second half. Langford and Winston added a spark to MSU’s offense scoring 24 points out of the break, including three straight 3-pointers. Michigan State’s defense also stepped up in the second half, as they held Texas to a 22% shooting from the floor over the final 20 minutes. The Spartans destroyed the Longhorns on the glass, out-rebounding them 42-23.
Taking it to UCLA
Michigan State started off fast in Thursday night’s game against the Bruins, jumping out to a 29-point first half lead. The Spartans shot 60% in the opening half, including 10 of 17 from 3-point range. Winston and Langford each connected on three 3-pointers and combined for 26 first-half points. MSU continued to shoot well in the second half and finished at 51.6 percent, making 13 of 24 from beyond the arc.
Winston finished with 19 points, while Langford scored 14. Forward Nick Ward also contributed 16 points and five rebounds.
Getting ready for Louisville
Michigan State was idle this weekend, giving the team a little bit of time rest and get ready for their next big challenge. The Spartans will be returning to action on Tuesday when they’ll play the Louisville Cardinals as part of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.
Fresh off their tournament wins, the Spartans are looking like one of the best teams in the country while the Cardinals are on a two-game losing streak after dropping losses to Marquette and Tennesse. Playing in Louisville is never easy, but this matchup should be a favorable one for Michigan State despite the tough venue.
Taking care of the ball will be important if the Spartans hope to win the game. While MSU is only averaging 14 turnovers a game, the Spartans will need to make sure the 24 turnovers they had against the Longhorns is a one-time event.
Following Tuesday’s game, Michigan State will then travel to Rutgers on Friday for the start of Big Ten play. These next two games are the last of four straight road games for the Spartans.