Transition offense gives confidence boost in win against Mississippi Valley State
Rebound, push the ball, run the lane, head up, find the open shooter. Just like clock work, MSU was ticking, every pass with a crisp snap of the wrist against Mississippi Valley State in transition.
Only amounting four fast break points against Arizona and another four fast break points against Kentucky, the Spartans were able to get up and down the court for 30 fast break points against the Delta Devils.
Leading the charge was freshman guard Cassius Winston, who led the game in assists with 11. Winston found himself in space at the top of the key, dishing down low for layups and dunks by forward Nick Ward and guard Miles Bridges. Bridges would finish with a game-high 24 points, 21 in the first half.
“We are pushing the ball a lot more but at the same time, mentally the game is slowing down,” Winston said. “We know we have to hit the wings, we have to sprint to our spots, get to our spot, get the post a touch."
Ward feasted down low, having scored 18 points and shot 8-of-8 from the field. However, it was an important showing by guards Eron Harris and Matt McQuaid that provided assistance from deep.
Each guard was 5-for-8 from 3-point range. The long range barrage fell after poor shooting performances in their first two contests. Harris shot 1-for-6 on the year before MVSU, and McQuaid shot 1-for-6 against Kentucky.
“(I'm) trying to do my job better," Harris said. “My teammates and my coaches (are) helping me a lot. People calling me, ‘E you good, you good, keep it going you’re a shooter, do your thing.’”
Harris ended up with 19 points, one of four Spartans in double-figure scoring.
“Eron got in a good flow, the rim looked big for him tonight and we need that out of him," McQuaid said.
The word of the game — confidence. After dropping its first two games, MSU was in need of team success, head coach Tom Izzo said.
“We were very pissed off about the first few games,” McQuaid said. “I feel like we did a lot of what we stressed in practice.”
The Spartans as a team shot 66.1 percent from the field, 69 percent in the second half alone, 42 total points in the paint.
“I think confidence … getting into the flow of things, getting the fast break going a little more, I’m encouraged by the step we took,” Izzo said. "We are supposed to beat them, but you still have to hit shots. As we learned, we had open shots against the other two teams that we didn’t make.”
While the Spartans raced up the scoreboard, reaching 100 points for the first time this season, the necessity of fast break offense has been intensified because of their lack of size.
“We are moving faster, which we need because we are a smaller team, but the game is also coming slower to us,” Winston said. “You need these types of performances to you know, get your confidence boosted.”
Although the score sheet might have been bloated against lesser competition, Winston said despite the competition, there were positive takeaways.
“At the end of the day, no matter the competition, we made shots,” Winston said. “We are going to have those same opportunities to make those shots against better competition.”
The Spartans will look to keep their confidence rolling as they square off against Florida Gulf Coast on Nov. 20 in East Lansing.
“When you look at shooting like that, you can say, ‘Well, you’re playing Mississippi Valley instead of Kentucky’ but we had some of the same shots,” Izzo said. “It’s about having the confidence to make them.”