Freshman guard Josh Langford learning nuances of game as season progresses
In MSU’s 74-66 win over the Ohio State University Buckeyes Tuesday night, freshman guard Joshua Langford did something he had never done before at the college level.
The opportunity came as a result
With only 1:32 left in regulation, Langford's basket extended MSU's lead to nine points, effectively sealing the win for the Spartans.
"Oh man, we haven’t seen that all season," senior guard Alvin Ellis III said, who finished the game with a team-high 18 points. "I don’t even think we’ve seen that in practice. He came out of nowhere. When he did that, that was the icing on the cake right there."
After the game, however, Langford wasn't hung up on the highlight-reel caliber dunk, or his seven combined points on 3-of-6 shooting from the field accompanied by an additional free throw, or his three rebounds or one steal.
Instead of basking in the win, Langford decided to look at the game footage of the shots he missed.
"I enjoyed (the dunk) in the game and after the game, everybody was jumping on me and saying, ‘I didn’t know you could dunk,’ and things like that," Langford said in the locker room. "But I just wanted to see where my hand placement was, or if I shot the ball too fast."
In all three of Langford's baskets on Tuesday, he drove the lane on each of the three scores and during the last two games, Langford has shot a combined 7-of-14 from the field with nine of those shots coming from 3-point range.
Langford said he's been scoring more through penetration ever since the team's blowout loss to U-M, two games prior to Tuesday's win over the Buckeyes. Against the Wolverines, Langford did not attempt a shot, nor record a single rebound or assist.
"After the Michigan game I looked at myself, and coach is telling me I need to be more aggressive," Langford said. "I said, 'I have the ability to do a lot of things and I’m not really showing it.' I just want to be more aggressive, whether that’s making a play in the lane or trying to get an extra tip on the defensive end or anything."
Head coach Tom Izzo said Langford's play has improved vastly during the last three weeks, comparing his athleticism to former Spartans like Charlie Bell, Jason Richardson and Gary Harris.
"I can see him starting to come on it," Izzo said in his post-game press conference. "He’s starting to do a better job. He’s getting better defensively. He’s going to be a hell of a player because he’s smart, he works and he cares."
Freshman forward Miles Bridges said Langford has finally learned to assert himself on the court. As part of Langford's growth, Bridges said he understands his role in the offensive scheme.
Bridges also said a Langford, who is more willing to assert himself, will have a more pivotal role as the season continues.
"I’ve just been telling Josh to be aggressive," Bridges said. "When he’s aggressive we’re tough to beat."
Langford is just one of the many moving parts of this Spartan team. With five more games before the start of the Big Ten Tournament, Langford's role could grow increasingly larger should his play remain consistent.
"Mentally, you just have to be telling yourself, ‘I have to do this for my team,’" Langford said. "I feel like if you really put yourself aside and focus on doing your job it makes it easier, because you’re always thinking about somebody else, not thinking about yourself."