Michigan State and LSU will fight on Friday, March 29, 2019 in Washington, DC, in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament. Get to know the tigers.
Marlowe Alter, Detroit Free Press
DES MOINES, Ia. Cassius Winston was about to blow off the clock and state of Michigan State to make a difference. He drove hard and lashed left onto a wide-open Aaron Henry.
It was an eventful weekend for the Spartan freshman, who is often scrutinized by the NCAA tournament. But Henry did not wither here. He quietly buried the quick pass for his first race of the tournament.
On the sidelines, Tom Izzo clenched his hand and gently pumped his fist as the Spartans went up in the second half of the nineteenth century. After Henry and his coach grabbed countless headlines to start their Des Moines stay, everything in the Spartan world is good now.
Saturday's 70-50 win over Minnesota, which propelled Michigan State to its second weekend for the first time since 2015, took care of that.
"I was just trying to win the game, get to Sweet Sixteen, help this team do what I can and play my best ball," Henry said.
"I was just trying to get my job done. I was quit early (Minnesotas Amir) Coffey – and he did a good job – but I tried to do everything I could to put a stop to it. And then just bounce off the ball and earn points if I can. Playing in myself and playing my role was huge. "
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Michigan State's Aaron Henry bounces off Minnesota in the second half of the NCAA tournament game's second round Saturday, March 23, 2019 at Wells Fargo Arena, Des Moines, Iowa. (Photo: Kirthmon F. Dozier, Detroit Free Press)
Henry delivered a versatile state line – nine points in 4: 5 shooting, nine high rebounds and three assists. Saturday was his fifth 30-minute game of the month after completing just two such games in the first 28 games.
As a young but talented newcomer who was still in March, Henry received an abrupt introduction. The social media and Internet outcry that surrounded the clip of Izzo, who insulted Henry during a break on Thursday, may have shaken an ungrounded freshman. But Henry remained unimpressed during the weekend.
He looked stable on Saturday, as did the rest of the state of Michigan.
"Aaron is doing things you do not see," coach Dane Fife's head coach said. "Aaron has a tremendous sense of the game. Sometimes it's like having a senior in defense because he understands it so well. We're just trying to make sure he's concentrating on the things he can control, and that his feelings are not captured by things he can not control. "
That was big against Minnesota. Although Henry spent most of Thursday and Friday playing down Izzo's outburst, there was still enough noise to create distraction if Henry was not locked up.
He was from the opening top.
Henry threw a thunderclap over the state of Michigan's first estate. He helped Coffey, who had 27 points on the score, but needed 24 shots to get there. Henry's dominance on the boards was a microcosm of the night when the state of Michigan ended on the glass with an astonishing 45-19 mark.
The Spartans need their freshman even more to move forward. Next is a flight to Washington, DC for the LSU at Sweet Sixteen – a place where Henry is happy to be away after a few hectic days.
"I just wanted to relax and play basketball," Henry said. "I mean, I just talked to the coach, and I wanted to play the way I can and how the coach expects me."
Dargan Southard covers the sports in Iowa and UNI, recruiting and preparing the Des Moines Register, HawkCentral.com and the Iowa City Press Citizen. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter at @Dargan_Southard.
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