Hoops notes: Bridges thinks Spartans have been playing 'soft lately'
In the mind of sophomore guard Miles Bridges, University of Michigan didn’t beat No. 4 MSU, 82-72, on Saturday at the Breslin Center.
His team handed the game to their in-state rivals.
“I feel like they didn’t win it, we lost this game,” Bridges, the 6-foot-7 native of Flint, said. “We basically gave them the game. They made shots and all, but we could have made shots to avoid it.”
Despite scoring 19 points, six rebounds and five assists and committing four turnovers, Bridges’ biggest gripe was his team’s defensive effort.
The Spartans held U-M to 36.4 percent shooting from the field in the first half, compared to the 12-for-24 the Wolverines shot to seal their win.
“We have to get tougher,” Bridges said. “We’ve been playing soft lately. That’s why teams are able to stay in the game with us.”
The Wolverines also forced 18 turnovers, resulting in 26 points. MSU forced seven turnovers, resulting in seven points.
“They didn’t do anything that surprised us,” Izzo said. “I just thought we did some things that surprised me with the turnovers.”
The loss is MSU’s second in its last three games. Then-No. 1 MSU was blown out 80-64 on the road against Ohio State. On Wednesday, the Spartans avoided another upset after beating Rutgers 76-72 in overtime.
Bridges said this stretch makes the 91-61 win against Maryland on Jan. 4 feel like a distant memory.
“I feel like it’s a whole team effort,” he said. “We’re not holding each other accountable. Once we start doing that, we’re going to be able to out-tough some teams and grit out some wins.”
Fifth-year senior forward Gavin Schilling agreed.
“We just have to be a tougher team,” Schilling said. “Our program is traditionally built on toughness and that is something that we are lacking right now. We have to dig deep and come up with this toughness that is going to win us some games. … We have the talent to bring it out. We just have to bring it out somehow. Mentally and even physically. We could be tougher in both areas.”
In 12 minutes, Schilling finished with six points — all scored in the first half — and six rebounds.
“We have to go back to the drawing board and regroup,” Schilling said. “It starts in practice. We have to correct those mistakes in practice and get on each other for mistakes in practice that we won’t do in games and that is where it starts.”
Trouble with Ward: Izzo said U-M’s strategy to double team forward Nick Ward was effective to limit MSU’s offensive production.
Ward, who came into Saturday as MSU’s second-best scorer, averaging 14.8 points, was held to four points on 2-of-5 shooting from the floor and also finished with four fouls in 14 minutes. When in the game, Ward guarded forward Moritz Wagner, who scored a game-high and career-best 27 points.
“It’s somewhat what the teams are doing to (Ward),” Izzo said. “It’s some that this was a unique thing that we struggled a little bit on defense. When we started the second half we were going to pound it on in to them, then he had those two turnovers right away and you know he had done such a good job the first half going out, taking his time.”
Point guard play: Though Izzo was pleased with the way U-M guard Zavier Simpson, who finished with 16 points and 5 assists, was guarded, he said he thinks his point guards played poorly.
Sophomore guard Cassius Winston scored 11 points, but had two assists and turned the ball over four times. Senior guard Lourawls "Tum Tum" Nairn Jr. finished without scoring, one rebound, zero assists and one turnover.
“You know, we didn’t do a very good job at the end,” Izzo said. “Let’s face it, our point guards struggled. When the head goes, the body goes with it a little bit. And that was a big difference in the game.”