Spartans toughness reaches new heights in upset of Duke

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- "PPTPW" has long been a staple of Tom Izzo's program at Michigan State.

Players Play, Tough Players Win.

"That explains us as a team," East Region most Outstanding Player Cassius Winston said when asked about his team's toughness in Sunday's game.  "We fight, we dig down for each other, we keep fighting all the way until the end of the game."

Michigan State has been tough all year, perhaps never more so than the win Sunday night against Duke, 68-67, to claim the East Regional and advance to the program's 10th Final Four.

"That is what we have been doing this whole stretch," sophomore forward Xavier Tillman said.  "We have just been showing toughness. That is just something that this team has that I have not been on in a long time is a team that is tough and resilient."

Michigan State trailed 30-21 with just over five minutes to play in the first half following a 12-0 Duke run. The Spartans countered by scoring the final 13 points of the half to lead 34-30 at the break.

"Grit, resiliency, just never giving up even though they made their run," freshman Aaron Henry said. "Basketball is a game of runs, and our run was bigger than theirs, so I am just glad the ball bounced our way tonight."

"We got punched in the mouth a couple times," senior Matt McQuaid said.  "They made their runs, they made their plays, but we kept responding and fighting and got a good team win."

Down one with less than 40 seconds to play, Kenny Goins hit a big three to give Michigan State the lead for good.

Michigan State will take on Texas Tech in the second national semifinal at about 9:49 p.m. on Saturday.  In the first game, Virginia meets Auburn at 6:09 p.m.

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