Edson: Goins Symbolizes What MSU Is All About
Kenny Goins was a walk-on to the Michigan State basketball team.
He didn’t have a scholarship offer to play for the Spartans, so he took a chance on making coach Tom Izzo’s squad.
Duke’s Zion Williamson was recruited by all the top basketball powers in the nation, knowing he would play one year in college then become the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft.
So what happened on Sunday evening when top-ranked Duke went up against Michigan State?
Goins hit the go-ahead 3-point shot with 34 seconds left over Williamson, then came up with a big defensive play on the other end to preserve a 68-67 victory.
Experience beat Athleticism… at least this time.
Goins was just one of several Spartans who had big moments in the victory. MSU’s success starts and ends with Big Ten Player of the Year Cassius Winston, of course.
He was up to the task again, scoring 20 points, dishing out 10 assists and dribbling the final five seconds off the clock as the Spartans celebrated their move into the Final Four of the NCAA Tournament.
While Winston was voted the East Region’s Outstanding Player, the under-rated Xavier Tillman made the All-Regional team with 19 points and nine rebounds. Goins, the last MSU player remaining from the 2015 Final Four Spartan team, had 10 points and nine rebounds.
This game was a classic and could have gone either way at the end. But that’s when Michigan State’s experience and Izzo’s coaching seemed to tip the scales.
Williamson had an outstanding game with 24 points and 14 rebounds. But he also committed five of Duke’s 17 turnovers.
And the Spartans turned those 17 turnovers into 24 points.
Give Duke credit. The Blue Devils are a great program with an outstanding team. But sometimes players who are hungrier and have more experience seem to come up big in clutch moments.
That’s what happened on Sunday.
Now the Spartans travel to Minneapolis next Saturday to play Texas Tech in one semifinal while Virginia takes on Auburn in the other.
This is the same Texas Tech team that completely shut down Michigan’s offense last week in the regionals.
So there is no such thing as a sure thing once we get this far in the NCAA tournament.
But there was something special about MSU’s win over Duke.
It might not have been David vs. Goliath.
It was bigger – Kenny Goins (and veteran teammates) over King Zion and his Band of Freshmen.
Nick Edson is a retired Hall of Fame columnist and sportswriter. He worked 25 years at the Traverse City Record-Eagle, 18 as sports editor. He is a two-time president of the Associated Press Sports Editors Association and a member of the Michigan Basketball Coaches Hall of Fame.