Bridges supports MSU in opening win over Bucknell
Detroit — That was the Miles Bridges everyone has been waiting for.
The superstar who returned for his sophomore season at Michigan State entered the NCAA Tournament understanding there was no room for error, and with the opening-round matchup with Bucknell still close midway through the second half, Bridges took over.
With third-seeded Michigan State leading by eight, Bridges scored 10 straight to spark a second-half run and lead the Spartans to an 82-78 victory over No. 14-seed Bucknell at Little Caesars Arena.
Michigan State (30-4) advances to take on the TCU-Syracuse winner on Sunday.
BOX SCORE: Michigan State 82, Bucknell 78
“Considering the layoff I thought we were pretty sharp for about 30 minutes of the game,” Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said. “But when we weren’t sharp it was disappointing. It wasn’t one mistake it was like three or four and we’ve got to change that if we want to keep moving on.
“For the most part in the second half, I thought we played very, very, very well.”
Bridges finished with 29 points while grabbing nine rebounds and handing out four assists. Joshua Langford was the catalyst early, scoring 15 of his 22 points in the first half. Cassius Winston scored 11 and handed out 10 assists.
“I feel like we have the best fan base in the country and they really came out and supported us today,” Bridges said. “That helps us when we were down and Bucknell was going on a run, our crowed got us going.”
Bucknell (25-10) didn’t make it easy for the Spartans. Senior Zach Thomas scored 27 points, 20 of those coming in the first half. However, he got in foul trouble and when he was called for a technical foul with 6:06 to play, that gave him five personal fouls and he was done.
Stephen Brown scored 20 and Kimbal Mackenzie chipped in 10 points for the champions of the Patriot League, who hit four 3-pointers late but couldn’t overcome a deficit that was 15 with two minutes to play.
The win improves the Spartans’ record to 25-7 in the opening-round game of the NCAA Tournament, while coach Tom Izzo is now 16-5 in the round of 64.
Early, Michigan State was getting the shots it wanted and used that offensive execution to jump out to a 23-12 lead with 10 minutes left in the half after a 3-pointer from Langford. But Bucknell answered by hitting its share of tough shots as Thomas scored seven straight and the Bison used a 14-4 run to take its first lead at 28-27 on a 3-pointer from Thomas with 5:24 to play in the half.
The Spartans had their own answer as Winston scored seven straight and Bridges hit a 3-pointer to give Michigan State a 39-31 lead. But after the teams exchanged buckets, the Bison chipped away once again. A 7-0 spurt cut Michigan State’s lead to one before Bridges converted a three-point play to give the Spartans a 44-40 lead.
A deep 3-pointer from Bridges in the final seconds was waved off on a shot-clock violation and the Spartans took the four-point lead into the locker room.
Michigan State picked up the momentum early in the second half, extending its lead to 52-43. However, after scoring four quick points, Jackson was whistled for his third foul and early in the half, Nick Ward hit his head on the floor. He came out of the game but stayed on the bench and returned several minutes later, no worse for wear.
After the Bison got three free throws from Thomas, Bridges hit a jumper and Ward converted in transition to put the Spartans ahead, 56-46, with 11:14 to play.
From there it was all Bridges as Michigan State led by 18 late in the second half. A flurry of 3-pointers from Bucknell in the final minute forced the Spartans to clinch the game at the free-throw line.