Michigan State outlasted Florida on the hardwood in a sloppy game on Saturday. Despite turning over the ball 15 times, MSU defeated Florida in Gainesville, 63-59, in the out of conference matchup. DraftNasty’s Troy Jefferson gives his impressions in this in-game report:
5 Cassius Winston (6’0 185) Michigan State PG-Junior
Winston is in his third season as the starting point guard for the Spartans. The junior has been asked to shoulder the scoring load left behind by NBA first round draft picks Miles Bridges and Jaren Jackson. Against the Gators, Winston finished with 10 points on 4-of-13 shooting, six assists and two turnovers. The Spartans currently lack a backup point guard, which has forced Winston into heavy minutes. The junior point guard is averaging 31 minutes per game this season and played 36 minutes against Florida.
“Cassius is the guy I’m worried about because we’re kind of playing him into the ground right now, so he was tired,” Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo said in advance of the matchup with Florida. “I mean, him and Josh (Langford) have played a lot of minutes.”
It will be interesting to see how Izzo manages the minutes of Winston as the young season continues on.
44 Nick Ward (6’8 245) Michigan State center-Junior
Nick Ward is also in his junior season and -like Winston- is being asked to do more. The center decided to rescind his name from 2018 NBA Draft consideration and returned to East Lansing this past offseason. F oul trouble and conditioning have been a problem for Ward in the past but this season, he looks quicker and has done a better job of moving his feet defensively, especially on ball screens. Against Florida, Ward finished with 13 points and five rebounds. On the season, he is averaging 15 points and five rebounds per game on 21 minutes of action. The junior could garner NBA consideration as a second round draft pick because of his long arms (7’2” wingspan) and efficiency around the basket (64-percent field goal percentage).
11 Keyontae Johnson (6’5 225) Florida SF-Freshman
Oak Hill Academy (Virginia) has produced top NBA talent in the past and names like Carmelo Anthony, Rajon Rondo and Brandon Jennings come to mind. Keyontae Johnson could be the next in line. The Norfolk, Virginia, native is still trying to find his comfort zone on offense but the physical tools are there. Johnson is averaging six points and four rebounds per game during his 17 minutes of play. At 6’5”, 225, Johnson has good size for an NBA wing and despite his low scoring output, he has been efficient, shooting 53 percent from the field. The freshman won’t be a one-and-done, but this time next season look for Johnson to surface on the radars of NBA teams.
5 KeVaughn Allen (6’2 193) Florida PG-Senior
Allen is the experienced leader of the Gators. The four-year starter is a scoring machine, who can handle the ball but will be better served as a shooting guard at the next level. The senior finished 13 points on 5-of-15 shooting against the Spartans but he also had three turnovers. Allen is undersized for the shooting guard position and his ability to create for others is lacking. Look for the Gators point guard to spend some time in the G League or overseas after he leaves Florida.