EAST LANSING, Mich. - Cassius Winston had 23 points and seven assists, helping No. 11 Michigan State pull away to beat Rutgers 77-65 on Sunday night in the Big Ten opener for both teams.
The Spartans (6-3) led by just two points midway through the second half before outscoring the Scarlet Knights 16-7 to take control.
Michigan State's Gabe Brown scored a season-high 14 points, starting in place of Rocket Watts, who is expected to be out for about a week with a leg injury. Xavier Tillman had 14 points and 10 rebounds while Aaron Henry added 12 points on 2 of 10 shooting from the field and 7 of 8 at the line.
The Scarlet Knights (6-3) were competitive despite their leading scorers struggling to make shots. Ron Harper Jr. scored nine points on 4 of 12 shooting and Geo Baker had just four points on 1 of 7 shooting. Both players entered the game averaging 13 points as the team's only double-digit scorers.
Rutgers' Akwaski Yeboah scored a season-high 17 points and Jacob Young had a season-high 12 points off the bench.
EAST LANSING, MI - DECEMBER 08: Cassius Winston #5 of the Michigan State Spartans drivers to the basket in the first half against the Rutgers Scarlet Knights at the Breslin Center on December 8, 2019 in East Lansing, Michigan. (Photo by Rey Del Rio/G
The Spartans shot 43.6% overall and made just 7 of 21 3-pointers, failing to find a groove on offense after looking lost with the ball in an 87-75 loss against No. 10 Duke on Tuesday night at home against.
Rutgers: Steve Pikiell potentially has his best team in his fourth season with the Scarlet Knights, who haven't had a winning record since the 2005-06 season in coach Gary Waters' last season. Rutgers doesn't have much depth in the post, but perimeter play and defensive intensity should help it pull off some upsets. The Scarlet Knights entered the game third in the Big Ten in blocks, steals and turnovers forced and showed Michigan State those statistics were legitimate.
Michigan State: The top-ranked team in the preseason is in a funk. The Spartans are not having fun during and away from games because they're still reeling from the death of Winston's brother a month ago. They also have not made up for the loss of injured senior Joshua Langford or a trio of key players from last year's team: Matt McQuaid, Kenny Goins and Nick Ward.
Rutgers: Hosts Wisconsin on Wednesday night.
Michigan State: Plays Oakland on Saturday in Detroit.