MSU Spartan Season A Success; Baylor Lady Bears Claim NCAA Women’s Title
By Alex LaGrone, Staff Writer
For those who thought the Texas Tech Red Raiders only played defense, they didn’t know Matt Mooney. While the Red Raiders locked down the Michigan State Spartans on one end, the graduate transfer shooting guard was raining down threes on the other.
Mooney matched his career high with 22 points as Texas Tech held off a rally by the Spartans to win 61-51. The Red Raiders went on to advance to the men’s basketball NCAA Finals and lost in overtime to the Virginia Cavaliers.
The Spartans star point guard, Cassius Winston, who played great throughout the tournament for the Spartans was held in check mainly by Texas Tech’s tight defense. Though he led the Spartans with 16 points, he made only 4 of 16 shots. Kenny Goins, who made the game-winning shot to beat Duke, did not score at all but finished with 8 rebounds.
The tournament started with 64 teams and only one will end their season on a winning note. Making it to the final four is quite an accomplishment in and of itself. MSU finished with a 32-7 record, beat its rival, the Michigan Wolverines three times, and won a Big Ten Title. That’s a plate full of accomplishments.
While the loss against Tech will sting for a minute, the Spartans will be looking forward to next season. Here’s a look at some returning players and incoming freshmen:
Cassius Winston – Team Captain, Big Ten Player of the Year, First-Team All-American. There’s a chance he may test the NBA waters over the summer, but odds are he’ll return for his senior season.
Joshua Langford – Some of us may have forgotten about Langford who was the team’s leading scorer before he suffered a season-ending foot injury. He should be one of the Spartans’ top players and a top-notch defender as well as an All Big-Ten Conference candidate.
Aaron Henry – The athletic wing demonstrated late in the season why the coaching staff was so high on him. He improved his outside shot and was a very dependable defender. Henry should be on the verge of a break-out season and a player to watch.
Kyle Ahrens – The versatile wing was a key player early in the season. He’ll be back for his final season and provide some hustle plays and scoring punch from the three-point range.
Gabe Brown – A career-high 16 points against LSU in the sweet sixteen showed Gabe has big-time upside. For the sharpshooter, the key for Brown becoming part of the rotation is becoming a solid defender. That will be his biggest challenge.
Xavier Tillman – Tillman went from Nick Ward’s back up to a guy playing at a high level, especially on defense. One of the smartest players on the court, Tillman can guard nearly every position. On offense, Xavier ran the pick-and-roll very effectively with Winston.
Nick Ward – It had to be a frustrating season for the “Big Man”. Ward missed five games due to a fractured hand and never got back on track. Tillman filled in nicely for Ward. If Ward returns, he’ll be utilized in a situational/supportive role.
Other returning players who could make contributions are Loyer Foster, Thomas Kithier and Marcus Bingham.
Malik Hall – Hall is a very athletic shooting forward who can create and get his own shot. The forward position is crowded. Nevertheless, look for Hall to get plenty of playing time.
Rocket Watts – Rocket is a pure shooter and is a scoring machine. You can look for him to get plenty of playing time on an already solid team. With a name like “Rocket”, how can you go wrong?
Julius Marble – Mr. Marble is a big boy – 6’8”, 230 lbs. He had a great senior season and should be a force in the paint. He’s just the kind of player Tom Izzo likes to be a force on the glass.
No ‘Pot of Gold’ for the Fighting Irish
The Baylor Bears recovered after blowing a 17-point lead and losing a star player. They defeated the Norte Dame Fighting Irish, 82-81, for the NCAA women’s basketball championship. Norte Dame star player, Arike Ogunbowale, missed a foul shot in the final seconds to foil any comeback for the Irish.
The Lady Bears, 37-1, went on to capture their first championship in seven years. Their other titles were in 2005, 2012, and 2019. Baylor was able to pull off the win without star forward Lauren Cox, who injured her knee late in the third quarter.
The Irish were able to rally from a 14-point deficit, in the third quarter, to tie it at 78-78 in the fourth quarter. Chloe Jackson had a career-high 26 points. Jackson hit some key baskets to hold off a resilient Irish team. Jackson was named the Final Four Most Outstanding Player.
Do you have question, comment or story idea for Alex? Reach him at AlexLagrone@gmail.com.