Friday night was a time of healing and redemption for Michigan State.
The Spartans (1-2) returned to East Lansing with their tails between their legs after a drubbing at the hands of the Kentucky Wildcats. Throw in a last-second loss to Arizona in Hawaii, and you have a worst-case scenario start to the 2016-17 season. Mississippi Valley State (0-4) was the unfortunate recipient of Miles Bridges’ pent up aggression as the Spartans rolled all over the Delta Devils 100-53.
Bridges dominated the game, especially in the first half, a departure from his head-scratching performance at Madison Square Garden. The freshman phenom finished with 24 points, 11 rebounds, six assists and several highlight reel dunks.
“That first half performance was as good as any I’d seen here in a long time for a half,” Coach Izzo said after the game. “Kind of like Denzel (Valentine)’s in Chicago last year, only Miles did it for a half. Just did some phenomenal things.”
But former MSU great and Golden State Warriors forward Draymond is never satisfied with the freshman, especially after the first two games of the season.
“Yeah whatever Day-Day (Green) says is really blunt so he was like ‘you suck,’” Bridges said. “I know what that means, Day Day is a good role model for me.”
The game started out about as ugly as it could possibly be, with both teams combining to miss the first 12 shots. The Delta Devils only trailed by five with seven minutes to play in the first half before MSU turned on the jets, closing out the half on a 29-9 run.
Eron Harris also shook off his slow start, hitting three three-pointers in the first half en route to 19 points. A main reason why the MSU offense was out of sorts in the first two games was because of Harris. He should be the team’s go-to scorer and can take the pressure off of Bridges. But when his shots weren’t falling, it seemed to start a chain reaction against Arizona and Kentucky.
“When more of us just impact the game, you can’t put the burden on one person,” Harris said. “Everybody just has to attack. We have to keep encouraging each other to attack and the coaches are doing great for encouraging us.”
Coach Izzo put all four freshmen into the game early on and the halfcourt offense looked like a mess. Two alley-oops late in the shot clock salvaged a couple possessions, but it looked like something was off. MSU can’t rely on pure athleticism and raw talent to get them out of bad possessions like that once they get into Big Ten play.
Shooting woes seem to be in the rearview mirror for MSU (for now). The Spartans were en fuego from beyond the arc, thanks in large part to back-to-back-to-back threes from Matt McQuaid in the second half. The sophomore came into the game shooting 28.6 percent from deep and went 5-8 on Friday. The team finished with 16 threes on the night, more than they made in the first two games combined.
Freshman Nick Ward was a perfect 8-8 from the field for 18 points and eight rebounds, while his frontcourt mate Kenny Goins pitched in a quiet two points and seven rebounds.
Don’t think that just because the Spartans blew out Mississippi Valley State that all their problems are magically gone. MSU still has the Battle 4 Atlantis, where they could face teams like Louisville and Baylor, as well as the showdown with Duke.
“We took a step in the right direction,” said Izzo. “We did not conquer Rome or anything but we took a step in the right direction tonight.”
Turnovers were a major problem for the Spartans against Arizona and Kentucky, giving the ball away a combined 38 times. Tonight MSU cut its turnover total to 14, and most of those were within the flow of the game.
“The turnovers can’t compare to what I had against Kentucky and the turnovers we had against Arizona,” said Bridges. “They were all unforced, some of these were forced.”
The Spartans will take on “Dunk City” Florida Gulf Coast next on Sunday night at 7 p.m. at the Breslin Center.
Originally posted – http://impact89fm.org/sports/msu-back-on-track-with-romp-of-delta-devils/