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Cassius Winston leads Michigan State Spartans men's basketball team past Rutgers 77-65

Michigan State’s Aaron Henry, left, and Rutgers’ Mamadou Doucoure hit the floor as they scramble for a loose ball during the first half Sunday in East Lansing. (AP photo)

By LARRY LAGE
AP Sports Writer
EAST LANSING — No. 11 Michigan State pulled away and beat Rutgers thanks to two staples of Hall of Fame coach Tom Izzo’s program.
Defense and rebounding.
Cassius Winston had 23 points and seven assists, helping the Spartans top the Scarlet Knights 77-65 on Sunday night in the Big Ten opener for both teams.
“It was almost good for us have to grind one out because we’re going to have to do that for a while until we get back on track,” Izzo said.
Michigan State (6-3) led by just two points midway through the second half before outscoring the Scarlet Knights 16-7 to take control of what was a closely contested game for much of the night.
“It’s tougher in conference play,” Spartans shooting guard Gabe Brown said. “A lot of those Rutgers players got better.”
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.
“Missing Rocket, that’s another key player who can spread the floor and create,” Winston said. “It’s a little tougher without him, but Gabe came in and did some good things.”
Michigan State’s 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.