EAST LANSING, Mich. — Michigan State continued its winning ways Wednesday night with a 93-65 win against Rutgers at the Breslin Center. It was the Spartans’ fourth consecutive win and their seventh victory in the last eight games, improving them to 11-5 overall and 3-0 in the Big Ten.
Eron Harris broke out of a shooting slump, making 7 of 12 field goals— including 5 of 8 3-pointers —for a game-high 24 points. But the big news of the night was the return of freshman forward Miles Bridges. Bridges hadn’t played since Nov. 29 at Duke because of a left high ankle sprain. He played 17 minutes, scoring 6 points, grabbing 6 rebounds and adding 2 assists and 2 blocked shots. The Spartans also got 15 points from freshman forward Nick Ward and 12 points from sophomore guard Matt McQuaid.
Michigan State used a 14-3 run in the second half to build a 20-point lead, 63-43, with 12:06 left to play and cruised to the win.
Here are some of the highlights of head coach Tom Izzo’s post-game press conference:
On two mistakes he saw:
“I thought we made two mistakes, one by our team. We just didn’t seem like we were ready to play, and I’m confused by that because we practiced really well. These guys practiced well. And then we made a couple of coaching mistakes with a couple of coverages we adjusted at halftime that I take sole responsibility for. It goes both ways, but I was impressed with the week we had at practice and we just didn’t bring it.”
On his plan on how to play Miles Bridges:
“The final reason that he’s playing is that he was medically cleared, and then it totally went on his feel. And then the last vote was mine. So, medically cleared a week and a half ago to practice. He felt good enough, I could have played him in the last game and I said I was not doing that.”
On individual performances:
“(Miles Bridges is) not scared about anything, or he’s not nervous about things. He just played. So then everybody else can get back to maybe a little more of the norm. I thought that helped a little bit. We got Eron going a little bit, got him some shots. They took away Nick pretty good, and then they doubled him and they had some size in there. Nick took away Nick a little bit (with) where he was posting (up). He should get a gold star for defense (on) himself. We didn’t play with the energy in that first half, and I don’t want to make us feel bad or good, but this is no coach speak: I didn’t like the way we started that first half in many ways.”
“It’s a play we run, and yet I just felt like he was so good all week, (saying,) ‘Coach, whatever minutes you want me to play, I’ll play.’ Not worried about his scoring average. Not worried about this and that. I just thought it might be good for our players; it might be good for our fans; it might be good for us; and it definitely might be good for him. We set it up. We didn’t know if it would work. And it did. It was a great pass. I don’t know. I think that took the weight of the world off his shoulders too, a little bit. I was happy for him.”
On the slow start:
“I told my team tonight, I said, ‘Tomorrow morning at 9:30, I want to know why we started out like we did and why we didn’t bring the energy that we normally do and why the casualness. I thought the last three games we played with a lot more sense of urgency. And then why did certain guys play better? I’ll give you a better answer next press conference, but I did ask my team that same question. I think in Eron’s case, one of the negatives is he’s been consistently inconsistent. I think if he lets the game come to him, uses the screens, a lot of good things can happen for him. And as we get screening better, I think he’ll get more open shots.”