Michigan State’s Cassius Winston missed an open jump shot but was right there for the rebound. Without hesitating, he stepped back and swished a 3-pointer.
“Now is not the time to doubt yourself,” Winston said. “Now’s not the time to shy away from those big moments.”
The biggest moment for Michigan State is still to come after Winston led the Spartans back to the Final Four for the first time since 2015.
Michigan State beat Duke 68-67 in the East Region final in Washington on Sunday to knock the overall top seed out of the NCAA Tournament in what likely was the end of Zion Williamson’s college career. Winston took over the game when his team faced its biggest deficit, stealing the show from Williamson with 20 points and 10 assists.
Michigan State (32-6) will face Texas Tech in a Final Four semifinal in Minneapolis on Saturday. Virginia faces Auburn in the other.
“Everybody that beats Duke is ready to put that on the wall because that’s the program that (head coach Mike Krzyzewski has) built,” Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo said. “I do think we beat arguably the best team in the country, but there’s another game coming up.”
Winston made or assisted on 19 of Michigan State’s 30 field goals.
“Winston was the difference maker,” Krzyzewski said. “He was either scoring or assisting. He’s the best guard we’ve played against.”
Williamson had 24 points and 14 rebounds. He said it was a “high possibility” this was his final game for Duke (32-6).
“We’re very upset, obviously, but congrats to Michigan State,” Williamson said. “Just looking around the locker room and see your teammates, your brothers, and you just think this group will probably never play together again.”
Auburn 77, Kentucky 71: Bryce Brown scored 24 points, Jared Harper and Anfernee McLemore made the plays that mattered in overtime for the Tigers (30-9), who rallied from a 10-point deficit to beat the Wildcats (30-7) in Kansas City, Mo., and earn the program’s first trip to the Final Four.
Harper finished with 26 points for Auburn, which had reached the Elite Eight only once before and had lost to Kentucky twice during the regular season.
“We wanted to make history,” Auburn head coach Bruce Pearl said. “You have to understand, at Auburn in athletics, we’re not Cinderellas in anything. We’re really, really good in all those other sports. We win championships. Been a long time since men’s basketball has been good.”
Auburn forced overtime when Harper made a tying layup with 38 seconds to go. The diminutive guard then scored the first four points of the extra session. And when Ashton Hagans scored for Kentucky, it was McLemore who added back-to-back baskets that forced the Wildcats to play catch-up.
Samir Doughty made the second of two free-throw tries to give Auburn a 74-71 lead with 16.1 seconds left, and the Wildcats’ Keldon Johnson misfired at the other end, wrapping up the victory for the Tigers.
“They played aggressive. They played tough. They bumped and it was a grinding-type game,” Kentucky head coach John Calipari said. “They deserved to win the game.”
PJ Washington had 28 points and 13 rebounds to lead the Wildcats. Johnson added 14 points and Hagans had 10.
“We tied the game up and we thought we were going to win,” Washington said. “Just a lot of emotions not being able to finish it the way I wanted to.”
This post was originally posted at https://www.sfgate.com/collegesports/article/Michigan-State-Auburn-earn-Final-Four-berths-13731109.php.