Izzo wants to make Bridges a ‘jerk’ after close win against Rutgers
Tom Izzo has had enough of the selflessness from sophomore guard Miles Bridges.
It nearly cost No. 4 MSU the win against Rutgers at the Breslin Center on Wednesday, but late contributions from Bridges helped the Spartans win 76-72 in overtime to earn MSU’s second win against the Scarlet Knights this season.
Bridges — MSU’s leading scorer, who averages 16.9 points — was held to 11 points in 34 minutes and was unable to score until there was 7:43 left in regulation.
He missed his first eight shot attempts from the field and finished the game 3-of-10 shooting on the floor, with four fouls, six rebounds and three of MSU’s 13 turnovers.
“I’m going to push Miles, I really am,” Izzo said. “I told him tonight, ‘hang onto your hat tomorrow,’ because he’s such a good player. He really is and he’s got so many positive things. But he’s going to give me something, I’m sure, and I’m going to teach him how to be a little more of a jerk. I’m good at that.”
According to Rutgers coach Steve Pikiell, keeping Bridges out of scoring contention was emphasized as a major strategy. Bridges was responsible for 21 points when the Spartans won their first meeting on Dec. 5 in Piscataway, N.J.
“Bridges is tremendous,” Pikiell said. “So we tried to do a good job of limiting his touches the best we could. We tried to limit his post-ups, but he’s a real good player and they have a lot of weapons."
Bridges did, however, assist on four of the team’s 21 baskets, but Izzo said he wants to see the ball in Bridges’ hands much more.
“I told him he’s got to be more selfish,” Izzo said. “You know, he started driving in and then as you say, there were some question mark things that happened. We just couldn’t get, you know, he’s driving on that baseline and made a couple great plays but that one time, I thought he got pushed out but he was out. But he was at least aggressive, and I don’t think it’s because he’s not afraid, he’s not tough enough. He’s just got to get a little more selfish in that respect.”
Ideally, Izzo said Bridges should learn from sophomore forward Nick Ward, who led MSU with 17 points and 10 rebounds. Ward was given a technical foul for exchanging words with defenders after his dunk with 11:00 left in the second half.
“I grew up with a chip on my shoulder,” Ward said. “It’s something I always try and do as much as I can every time I step on the court. When you play with a chip on your shoulder, you believe that nobody can mess with you on the court, no one can do this, no one can do that. It’s something you’re born with.
“You either have it or you don’t — (Bridges) does have it, though. He does have that. Today was an off day, but he has that.”
Bridges said he thinks that edge comes once he plays well defensively. Something he admits he didn’t have early on.
“I played terrible on defense in the first half,” he said. “I let a man get behind me and I just looked really lazy out there. I can’t do that. I've got to go out there and play more aggressive on defense and just do everything I need to do to win.”
Wednesday marked the third time Bridges has scored 11, also doing so against North Carolina on Nov. 26 and Oakland on Dec. 16. The only time this season he’s scored less was against Connecticut, when he scored six, but left the game after spraining his left ankle.
Until Bridges finds that edge, his teammates have his back.
“Miles is a great player, and there’s going to be a lot of guys key in on him because he’s our best player on the team,” sophomore shooting guard Joshua Langford said. “We just need to be there for him, make sure we encourage him, make sure that we keep telling him to keep being himself. Eventually, in basketball the ball always finds a great player, and the ball is always going to find him.”