Five Takeaways from MSU's hard-fought win over Rutgers
Men's basketball was tested in its first true road game of the season against the Scarlet Knights of Rutgers University on Tuesday night at the Louis Brown Athletic Center, but the Spartans were able to prevail.
Here are five takeaways from MSU's 62-52 victory over Rutgers.
For the second straight game MSU got off to a slow start. After opening up their previous game against Nebraska trading baskets, the Spartans found themselves in a deficit in the opening minutes Tuesday night.
The Scarlet Knights scored the first eight points of the contest, while the Spartans missed their first four shots and were held scoreless for the first four minutes until a layup by sophomore guard Joshua Langford finally got them on the board.
The team had five turnovers in the first 10 minutes of the game, and had four turnovers compared to three made field goals through the first eight minutes of Tuesday night's contest.
Sophomore stand-out forward Miles Bridges put forth his best offensive performance since the beginning of the squad's winning streak.
Bridges put in a season high 21 points which included five threes. A first half 16-2 run by MSU was sparked by Bridges' shooting, who made three consecutive jump shots, including back-to-back 3-pointers.
This wasn't Bridges' best shooting outing statistically this season, as he shot 7-of-17 on field goals and 5-of-11 from three. But it was his best offensive outing since Stony Brook back on Nov. 19, in which he scored 20 points on 6-of-13 from the floor.
Although MSU struggled offensively by shooting 39 percent on the night, the team made up for it on the defensive end by holding Rutgers to 26 percent on the night and an abysmal 17-of-66 from the floor.
The teams' defense gave them a boost as they forced the Scarlet Knights into shooting 1 for 9 towards the end of the first half, which allowed the Spartans to get back in the game.
MSU also had a season-high 13 blocks in the game, eight of those came from freshman forward Jaren Jackson Jr.
Not so balanced
On the season, the entire starting five for MSU, made up of Cassius Winston, Joshua Langford, Bridges, Nick Ward and Jackson, is scoring in double figures. But on Tuesday, most of the starting unit struggled to produce offensively.
Second-year point guard Cassius Winston had six points and three assists in his 16 minutes of action, while sophomore forward Nick Ward produced just three points on 1-of-5 shooting from the floor.
Langford finished in double figures alongside Bridges and Jackson, but took 20 shots to get his 15 points and only shot 30 percent.
Ward and Winston benching
Ward and Winston did not start in the second half, with head coach Tom Izzo instead favoriting a couple seniors, forward Gavin Schilling and guard Lourawls 'Tum Tum' Nairn Jr.
Winston eventually re-entered the game and made two 3-pointers down the stretch to help the Spartans close out the win against the Scarlet Knights, but Ward played just over a minute the entire half and was mostly regulated to the bench.
Ward played a total of 11 minutes and was not in foul trouble so it is unclear why the sophomore was benched. But if the Spartans want to fulfill their aspirations this season, Ward will have to be on the court.