Bridges, Winston improvements reason for win against Badgers
NEW YORK — Friday afternoon's contest was a back-and-forth contest from the start.
The biggest lead of the game was seven points, after junior guard Matt McQuaid drove to the basket and converted a layup with five minutes left in the game. But to start this late game run to secure the 63-60 win, sophomore point guard Cassius Winston hit a pull up jumper to give MSU a 53-51 lead and his last points of his 17 point afternoon.
His teammate, sophomore wing Miles Bridges, started a run at the beginning of the game scoring six of MSU's first 10 points, keeping the Spartans up with the Badgers early on.
And when they were down four with just under four minutes to go in the first half, who put the Spartans ahead? Yep, Winston and Bridges, combining to score 10 points in that span.
"Cassius was unbelievable the first half. Miles played really well the second half. And those guys brought us back in it," head coach Tom Izzo said in his postgame press conference.
The two combined for 37 of MSU's 63 points, with Bridges going 3-of-5 from 3-point land and dropping 20 points and Winston hitting several clutch shots to get MSU out of several holes. Bridges said this is a result of him improving as an all-around player, being smarter on the court and being able to play either small forward or power forward.
"I didn't just want to be getting to the rim or to dunk all the time. I wanted to be an all-around player, get some mid-range in there and be a great defensive player too," Bridges said. "My teammates did a great job of getting me involved. And we executed."
One of the aspects Bridges coaches have to account for is his 3-point shot. Which, Wisconsin head coach Greg Gard said not only helps the wing, but his teammates, especially those who make a living in the paint such as freshman forward Jaren Jackson Jr. or sophomore forward Nick Ward.
"You got to stretch the floor. You have to stay with Winston, you have to stay with Langford, you got to stay with McQuaid," Gard said. "And he's added some playmaking ability, you know, being able to change direction with the ball.
"He's becoming a much more complete player and obviously his size, because he's a matchup problem because he's 6-foot-8. He's evolved as you expect him too."
On the other hand, Winston, who's scored double-digits in his last six games shot over 50 percent in four of his last six, said he's been a lot more consistent on defensive as of late, which has been able to translate to his offense.
"I'm not a liability for the defense, so I can do what I'm good at for this team and that's making plays on offense," Winston said. "You know, I just do my job for this team each and every night."
Sophomore guard Joshua Langford said he's also seen Bridges and Winston mature not only through the past two years, but over the past year. Jackson Jr. said he wasn't surprised of the performance of Bridges and Winston.
"They just hooped. They do what they do," said Jackson Jr., who scored seven points but fouled out Friday. "The way our team is, anybody can blow up at any time. We probably have the highest variety of high scorers in the country."
The Spartans will next play Michigan in their semifinal of the Big Ten Tournament with tipoff schedule for 2 p.m. The last time the two teams faced each other, the Wolverines came away with a win at the Breslin Center.
"It's going to be a big game for tournament to move on to the championship, but that's the type of game you live for," Winston said.