Home opener win provides confidence boost for Spartans
The last time MSU started the season 0-2 was the 2011-12 season, when the Spartans dropped games to North Carolina and Duke. They went to win their next 15 games in a row, win the Big Ten Tournament and secure a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
Impatient MSU fans can rest easy after the Spartans earned their first win of the season with a 100-53 blowout win against Mississippi Valley State University. With the possibility of repeating history, head coach Tom Izzo said the win was a complete effort by his team after losing a close game to Arizona and a blowout loss to Kentucky.
“We went into the game saying we’re not going to turn the ball over,” Izzo said in his postgame press conference. “We need to do a better job of not taking as many threes. We’re going do a better job of moving the basketball, we’re going do a better job on our fast break.”
The Spartans did just that by outscoring the Delta Devils 42-16 in the paint and 30-4 off the fast break.
The win marked the 40th consecutive home-opener victory, making Izzo 22-0 during his tenure at MSU in home openers. MSU’s 47-point win was the largest since MSU defeated New Orleans University on Dec. 28, 2013 — which was also the last time MSU scored more 100 points in a single game.
Four different Spartans scored double-digit points, including senior guard Eron Harris, who said he felt comfortable and finished shooting 60 percent from the field, making 5-of-8 3-point attempts and two free throws for a grand total of 19 points.
Sophomore guard Matt McQuaid made all five of his scores from beyond 3-point range and finished the night with 15 points, as compared to the combined 12 points he had in the two games coming into Friday, making 26.7 percent of his shots.
“This week in practice we were really stressing moving the ball, passing and cutting with a purpose and it just opened up a lot of things for us,” McQuaid said. “We were going inside-out, getting into the lane, penetrating, and just finding people open.”
Izzo’s freshmen led the way in the team’s first victory of the season. Forward Miles Bridges converted 11-of-14 shots from the field, including both shots he took behind the arc, and turned the ball over once in contrast to his nine turnovers against then-No. 2 Kentucky, all while leading the team in both scoring and rebounds with 24 points and 11 rebounds for his first collegiate double-double.
“At the end of the first half, we just wanted to get the lead up to over 20 — get it to 30,” Bridges said. “Coach Izzo just told us to keep going, going, and going until we were tired, so that’s what we did.”
Freshman big Nick Ward made all eight of his shots and scored 18 points in 18 minutes, finishing behind Bridges with eight rebounds for the team lead. Ward’s playing time has increased in each game this season, starting with 14 minutes against then-No. 10 Arizona in the season opener, then 15 minutes against Kentucky at Madison Square Garden.
“I thought Nick Ward played a lot better,” Izzo said. “Eight must be his number, with eight rebounds, and 18 points and 18 minutes. I’d fly to Vegas if I was him tonight.”
Guard Cassius Winston finished the night with only two points, but played for 23 minutes and led the team with 11 assists, aiding in MSU’s lightning-quick scoring. Guard Josh Langford had three points and two rebounds.
As a team, MSU assisted on 84 percent of their baskets, with 33 assists made on 39 field goals — the most in a game since the Spartans tallied 35 assists against
The win was a much needed one, according to Izzo, after losing the first two games to Arizona and Kentucky.
“I tell my players what you have to do is use this as a life lesson and not just a basketball lesson,” Izzo said. “… How do you respond to getting embarrassed? I don’t mean getting embarrassed because Kentucky was a better team than us, but we did not play Spartan basketball, and that’s embarrassing to the program.”
As for the Delta Devils, they fall to 0-4 overall on the season.