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Michigan State Spartans’ Cassius Winston speaks for 1st time since brother’s death after MSU's easy win over Charleston Southern

Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo smiles on the sidelines during the second half against Charleston Southern on Monday in East Lansing. (AP photo)

By LARRY LAGE

AP Sports Writer

EAST LANSING — Cassius Winston made his first comments in public since the death of his brother, thanking Michigan State fans for their support.

Winston had 11 points and eight assists to help the third-ranked Spartans tune up with a 94-46 win over Charleston Southern on Monday night.

Michigan State coach Tom Izzo offered Winston an opportunity to address the Breslin Center crowd after the game because the senior guard has been appreciative of the cards, flowers and words of encouragement he has received from the community.

“I lost a piece of my heart, but you guys are keeping me going,” Winston told fans, who were asked to stay in their seats following the game. “I love everything about this place.”

Winston later said in the locker room it was important to him to speak directly to the crowd.

“Too many flowers and texts to even count,” he said. “People reaching out to you and praying for you.

“Their support is real.”

Winston played in his second home game and third this season since his younger brother, Zachary, died after being hit by an Amtrak train in Albion, where he played Division III basketball.

Izzo said it has been remarkable how Winston has handled his heartbreaking loss, but the All-America guard has not been able to practice much to stay sharp on the court.

“Cass did some good things and some great things,” Izzo said. “But trust me when I say he wasn’t himself.”

Xavier Tillman scored a career-high 21 points and grabbed 10 rebounds for the Spartans (3-1) in an on-campus game that is part of the Maui Invitational.

Michigan State was without starting forward Aaron Henry, who rolled both ankles in last week’s win over then-No. 12 Seton Hall.