MSU flashes its potential in blowout win over North Florida in season opener
MSU beat North Florida 98-66 in the Spartans season opener Friday night at the Breslin Center. The team dominated from start to finish, leading by as many as 29 points in the first half, and by as many as 39 after the intermission.
The team never trailed after initially being down 8-to-7 to the Ospreys early on. The Spartans went on a 19-3 run to take complete control of the game going into the break. During the run, MSU held North Florida scoreless for over eight minutes.
A well balanced scoring attack
The Spartans featured a well-balanced scoring attack, as all starters scored double digits; including a perfect six for six from the floor for 16 points for sophomore forward Nick Ward.
Second-year forward Miles Bridges led the team in scoring with an efficient 20 points on 9-15 shooting from the field, along with grabbing 10 rebounds.
Despite the team shooting well over 50 percent for the contest, Head coach Tom Izzo said after the game that he was disappointed in the squad's performance offensively.
"The points you score can be deceiving, you've got to play a complete game," Izzo said in a press conference.
MSU beat out North Florida in almost every major statistical category, and neutralized North Florida's offense, holding them to just 35 percent from the field; which Izzo said he was very impressed with.
"I thought we had hands up and we moved our feet pretty good," Izzo said. "It's (North Florida) a hard team to cover, so it was good experience for us."
An impressive debut
The first game of the season for the Spartans was also the first of freshman forward Jaren Jackson's collegiate career. The 6-11 Indiana product produced a double-double in his debut; scoring 13 points and pulling down 13 boards.
After the game the freshman noted some of the differences he experienced in his first regular season game compared to the team's preseason matches.
"It's just a different feel, coach is more intense, everything is cranked up a little bit; but the approach is no different, I try to approach every game the same way," Jackson said.
While Jackson's field goal percentage didn't stand out - two for six from the floor - he made up for it by shooting 90 percent from the foul line.
Jackson said that getting to the line was a point of emphasis for him.
"I think I got a lot of free throws just by being active," Jackson said. "I just tried to make sure I got to the free throw line because I know I can be successful from there."
The Spartans can now look forward to the Champions Classic in Chicago, where they will square off against number one ranked Duke; the one team ranked ahead of them.
Izzo said after the game he has not mentioned the heavyweight matchup with the Blue Devils much amongst the team, and has not used it as a motivating factor.
"We're more worried about how we play and what we do," Izzo said. "We have a major step and a major hurdle to climb here, and we're going to try and do that."