FINAL: Winston, Bridges push MSU past U-M to snap losing streak
Technical fouls, blood drawn and words exchanged, all important ingredients for a rivalry game. Led by the freshman class, MSU men's basketball (13-9, 5-4 Big Ten) shook off the three game losing streak to eek past the Michigan Wolverines (14-8, 4-5 Big Ten), 70-62.
The freshman class received its first invite to play in the in-state rivalry and three of the four highly acclaimed freshmen showed their offensive abilities, forward Miles Bridges, forward Nick Ward and guard Cassius Winston all scoring in double digits. Bridges recorded his fourth double-double of the year, scoring 15 points and grabbing 13 rebounds.
Winston, MSU's leading scorer in the contest, scored 16 points, mostly by the efforts of his free throw shooting ability. As a team, MSU has been poor from the line, but they started 9-for-10 as a team and finished 17-for-23. Winston was 10-for-11 from the free-throw line.
With the high intensity of the rivalry and emotion from the fans, Winston said the team was focused in.
"It was everything that it lived up to be," Winston said.
Ward finished a perfect 6-for-6 from the field for 13 points. Freshman guard Joshua Langford failed to make a large impact, scoring just one point.
Converting just three 3-point baskets since the game against Penn State, sophomore guard Matt McQuaid accurately let it fly from beyond the arc. His nine points came from 3-for-3 from three. After the game, head coach Tom Izzo said everyone celebrated and cheered for McQuaid.
“You need to get confidence somehow and I said confidence is earned not given and the kid has worked hard at it," Izzo said.
The most elated, Izzo said, was Bridges whose drive drew McQuaid's defender. Bridges then kicked it out to McQuaid in the corner for his third three.
"We've been on Matt (McQuaid) a lot about his confidence because he's a great shooter," Bridges said.
A back-and-forth contest, MSU and U-M were tied eight times during the duration of the game, 12 times the lead was exchanged. But when push came to shove, MSU controlled the majority of the game, leading 31:05 of 40 minutes of game time.
After scoring points in a win against Indiana, U-M struggled to convert from the 3-point line. Just 7-for-26 as a team, guard D.J. Wilson and guard Derrick Walton Jr. combined for a dismal 2-for-13. U-M's head coach John Beilein said MSU's defense was terrific at forcing turnovers and contesting shots.
"They're just really good at being physical with their defense without fouling," Beilein said.
U-M's leading scorer on the year, guard Zak Irvin, was held scoreless, shooting 0-for-8 from the field. His usual output for the Wolverines this season has been 14.4 points per game. U-M's head coach John Beilein said Irvin missed the last two team practices with the flu.
In his scoring absence, Walton scored 24 points, 14-for-15 from the free-throw line. To open the second half, Walton buried his only two 3-point baskets.
"He's tougher than nail," Izzo said. "I thought his performance was almost heroic."
MSU has now defeated the Wolverines in five straight games. Their next game against U-M comes in under two weeks on Feb. 7, in Ann Arbor.
"We've been through a lot of great games but Michigan, Michigan State is a whole other level," Bridges said.
Final game stats:
Leaders for MSU
Points- Winston (16)
Rebounds- Bridges (13)
Assists- Nairn (4)
Leaders for U-M
Points- Walton (24)
Rebounds- Walton (9)
Assists- Walton (5)
MSU men's basketball will be on the road against the Nebraska Cornhuskers (9-11, 3-5 Big Ten) on Feb 2. The game is set to tip off from Lincoln, Neb. at 7 p.m. and will be televised on ESPN.