No. 3 Mich. St. faces tough test at No. 12 Seton Hall

(AP Photo/Al Goldis)

(AP) -- Emotions are running high throughout the Michigan State basketball program, but it has nothing to do with its Thursday night showdown against Big East favorite Seton Hall.

The death of Zachary Winston, the younger brother of Spartans senior guard Cassius Winston, has cast a pall over the team. Zachary, a member of the Albion (Mich.) college basketball team, died of an apparent suicide on Saturday night. He was friends with many players on the Spartans squad.

"Our players were close to his brother, too," coach Tom Izzo said. "So it's not just how you feel about one of your teammates' brothers, it's how you feel about your teammates' brother who also was your friend and a guy you knew very well. When people see things like that happen and when you're young, I mean, it's scary, shocking. I don't know what words would be right."

Somehow, his older brother played through that shock on Sunday, just hours after learning of his brother's death. Cassius Winston, the favorite for the National Player of the Year award, had 17 points and 11 assists in 26 minutes during a 100-47 victory over Binghamton.

Winston, who is expected to make the trip to the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J., is finding some solace when he's on the court.

"I think we know we have to move on," Izzo said. "Everybody talks to everybody about 'life doesn't stop.' It's easy to say those words. It's hard to implement those words. But I think getting Cassius out on the court helps Cash. As he said to me, 'When we stop in practice, I start thinking. In the game. I was just going up and down.' So maybe that will help him some."

No. 3 Michigan State was ranked No. 1 heading into the season, but lost to then-No. 2 Kentucky 69-62 in its opener on Nov. 5.

No. 12 Seton Hall (2-0) will likely play without their star on Thursday. Senior guard Myles Powell, the preseason Big East Player of the Year, sprained his left ankle during the first half of a 74-57 victory over Stony Brook on Saturday.

Coach Kevin Willard indicated afterward that Powell would miss multiple games, though the ankle has reportedly responded well to treatment.

Pirates senior guard Quincy McKnight will likely shadow Winston if Powell can't play.

"Cassius Winston, he's a name in college basketball," McKnight said. "I believe he's on the point guard list for best point guards in the country, so he's the real deal. I watched him play the first game against Kentucky, they look solid."

Powell scored 27 points in 30 minutes in their season opener against Wagner. He averaged 23.1 points, 4.0 rebounds and 2.9 assists as a junior.

Power forward Sandro Mamukelashvili (14.0 ppg), McKnight (12.0 ppg) and guards Jared Rhoden (11.5 ppg) and Shavar Reynolds (9.0 ppg) will have to do more offensively to make up for Powell's expected absence.

McKnight wishes the Spartans hadn't lost to Kentucky, since that would have added another element to an already intriguing matchup.

"Yeah, we were definitely upset," he said. "We wanted to have a No. 1 come into our house. It's tough but they're still going to be top 10, top 5 when they come here and we'll still be able to give them a good game."

--Field Level Media

Updated November 14, 2019