Gophers put in a rank performance
EAST LANSING, Mich. — One big half from freshman forward Miles Bridges was all Michigan State needed to secure its second win of the season over No. 24 Minnesota.
Bridges scored all of his game-high 16 points by halftime and the Spartans cruised to a 65-47 Big Ten victory Wednesday at the Breslin Center.
"I feel like it gave our team an extra boost of energy, to see him have 16 in the first half like that," said fellow freshman Joshua Langford, who had 13 points. "Miles is an unbelievable player, but he brings an unbelievable type of energy to a team. He gets a lot of people going. He's one of those players that has the 'it' factor."
Playing in his third game since an ankle injury sidelined him for seven games, Bridges also grabbed six rebounds and made four blocks in 22 minutes. He was limited to 10 combined points in his first two games back.
"In the first half, he was a man-child," Spartans coach Tom Izzo said. "He did a lot of good things. That really helped us, him getting off to a good start. We're probably a week-and-a-half, two weeks away from getting him back to where he was before the injury. But that was a big start."
The Spartans (12-6 overall, 4-1 Big Ten), who have won eight of their last 10 games, bounced back from a road loss to Penn State on Saturday. They posted a 75-74 overtime road win over Minnesota on Dec. 27.
"We wanted to come in and play with a chip on our shoulder," Langford said. "That was something we were emphasizing after the Penn State game because we felt like they outworked us.
"We said that was the last time a team was going to outwork us because that's not what Michigan State stands for. We wanted to come in and really just sit down on them defensively."
Michigan State freshman center Nick Ward added nine points and eight rebounds before fouling out.
Minnesota junior guard Nate Mason scored all 14 of his points in the second half. Sophomore guard Dupree McBrayer had 11 points for the Gophers (15-3, 3-2), who entered the rankings this week for the first time in nearly four seasons.
"You're ranked and everybody loves you and all this nonsense," said coach Richard Pitino, whose team won its last three conference games. "It's too early for any of it. We've played five league games. We've got a bunch of time left. There's no easy games in this league.
"Winning on the road is very difficult and just because we did it twice doesn't mean we're going to run through teams on the road."
Minnesota, which never led, had not scored fewer than 56 points this season. It shot 33.3 percent from the field and was outrebounded 42-29.
"The first half, we had a lot of missed shots and that really affected our energy and our discipline," Pitino said. "They just beat us up."
The Gophers went scoreless in the last 5:30 of the first half as Michigan State opened a 39-17 lead. The Spartans finished the half on a 15-0 run, led by the revived Bridges, while holding the Gophers to a season halftime low by a Spartans opponent.
The freshman forward got into an early rhythm by dropping in three baskets in the first four-plus minutes. Langford's baseline jumper gave the Spartans a double-digit advantage at 24-13 with seven minutes left in the half.
Bridges fired in back-to-back 3s during the late outburst and finished off a personal 8-0 run with two free throws. Layups by Eron Harris and Langford completed the Spartans' dominant half.
Michigan State's lead was still 52-30 midway through the second half.