Hoops notes: Bridges to Winston scoring combo shown in blowout win
It wasn’t a career night for either sophomore point guard Cassius Winston or sophomore wing Miles Bridges, but the duo gave the Spartans a new look.
Winston shined again for the second time in three games, finished tied with sophomore shooting guard Joshua Langford for a game-high 17 points in No. 3 MSU’s 81-63 win over No. 5 Notre Dame Thursday. Winston, the 6-foot-0 product of the University of Detroit Jesuit, shot 6-of-10 from the floor with five 3-pointers, five rebounds and seven assists.
Four of Winston’s triples came on quick dish passes from Bridges, who finished behind Winston and Langford with 14 points on 6-of-15 shooting, six boards and four assists.
Bridges said he knew he was going to be double teamed, leaving a simple message for Winston.
“Shoot it,” Bridges said. “Once I see his man take a step at me to help, then I know he’s going to be wide open, and I know he’s going to knock it down.”
Winston returned the favor with two alley-oop passes, resulting in momentum-swinging dunks.
“All I got to do is make eye contact with him, and I know he’s going to throw it up for me,” Bridges said.
Winston has converted 16 of his 28 shots from deep, the most on MSU’s roster in shots and attempts. His 90 points this season is also tied with Bridges.
“Just growing up in my family confidence is a big thing,” Winston said. “They feed us confidence, my dad and my mom. So I feel like I put the work in, I shot that shot a million times, this one is no different.”
Head coach Tom Izzo said the Winston-to-Bridges scoring combination has become popular since their arrival, but making it effective the other way around adds a whole other dimension to his team’s offense.
“What Miles gives us and will give us, you don’t always see just in his stats,” Izzo said. “Like I said, he threw two of the nicest, simplest passes to Cassius tonight that were game changers. That was two three-pointers, six points. I don’t think Miles could have done that last year. I think he’s just better with the ball.”
The Spartans outscored the Fighting Irish 17-7 on the fastbreak. Irish coach Mike Brey said it took away any chance for his team to stay in the game and was channeled mostly from Winston driving the ball down the court and passing effectively.
“The first thing you start with is, ‘Can you stop their transition?’ and as much as we talked about it and tried to practice it, you couldn’t simulate how fast they were coming down on us and that had us on our heels,” Brey said. “And they can affect us offensively, too, but they have a lot of different guys that can score the ball.”
Winston, however, said he doesn’t care if he’s passing to Bridges or vice versa. He just wants to win.
“My job for this team is to make plays, make winning plays,” Winston said. “Whether it be an assist, whether it be a steal, whatever it is. Today it had to be jump shots. Made a couple of big shots. My job on this team is a playmaker, and if I make winning plays and if I do that this team can be successful.”
Crash the glass: The Spartans outrebounded the Irish 42-21, led by Bridges. Langford was the only MSU player out of the 11 that played Thursday to not register a board, and every other player had at least two.
Brey said MSU is the best rebounding team in the country, which Izzo said is something he takes pride in.
“You win big games, you win championships,” Izzo said. "We’ve said it since the day that I got to this place, because of your defense and your rebounding. At the end of the day, even though they shot 44 percent, I thought our defense and rebounding won us the game.”
Injury update: Junior forward Kenny Goins found his way back into the rotation after missing the last four games with a sprained left knee. Goins, a 6-foot-7 native of Troy, Michigan, played four minutes and tallied two rebounds and missed his only shot from the field.
Bridges, who rolled his left ankle against Stony Brook, said he felt about 90 percent healthy after the game. Bridges said though he can move freely for the most part, the ankle hinders him most on offense.
“Because I can’t make sharp cuts,” he said. “Defense too, because when I get back-cut it’s hard for me to turn around, but I make a lot of hard cuts on offense as well.”