Watch the Secret Signals That Let Michigan State Escape Duke and Reach the Final Four

April 01, 2019 - 6:13 pm
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(97.1 The Ticket reporting from WASHINGTON) -- Four point seven seconds stood between Michigan State and a trip to the Final Four. The Spartans were up by one on Duke, 68-67, and needed to inbound the ball from the sideline deep in their end of the floor and hopefully run out the clock.

Michigan State wasn't in the bonus, so the Blue Devils didn't have time to foul.

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Xavier Tillman, standing almost directly in front of Mike Krzyzewski on the Duke sideline, took the ball from the referee.

Then he glanced at Cassius Winston and raised his eyebrows, a sign the two were up to something. It's a facial expression Michigan State fans won't soon forget.

Winston broke toward Tillman in the direction of the baseline, shedding Tre Jones for RJ Barrett, then stopped and turned up the floor. Tillman slipped him a pass as he was nearing midcourt, and then Winston took off into open space. He left Barrett behind, and the other Blue Devils in pursuit -- Zion Williamson and Jones -- never caught him.

When the buzzer went off, Winston hurled the ball in the air and kept on running. He could have ran all the way to Minneapolis.

Asked about the inbounds play afterward, Tillman said it was something he, Winston and Kenny Goins came up with.

"I saw the way Tre was guarding him and I was like, 'I'm just going to throw it up court because nobody's expecting us to go up court.' I told Kenny, 'You go that way' (and) 'Cash, you go that way.' And then I smacked the ball. I tried to fake it and Cash got open. I thought he was going to get fouled. When he didn't get fouled, I was ecstatic," Tillman said.

Even if Winston had been fouled, Duke would have had another foul to give before sending the Spartans to the line. Winston, like Tillman, expected that to happen. He could hardly believe it when he got away and was running out the clock.

"It was shocking. I (thought) I was going to get fouled. I was preparing my mind to knock down some free throws. But I got the ball and got away, and I was like, 'I'm like about to dribble it out. This is really happening.' It was a crazy moment," Winston said.

Barrett's thoughts in that moment were a bit different.

"Just that it's over," he said. "Every day we came in, worked our butts off and really gave everything that we had all season long. And we had so much success. So to see that happen at the end -- all credit to them. They played a hell of a game. But for it to be over for us is heartbreaking."

By Will Burchfield

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