MSU Freshman Lead Spartans Past Youngstown State

EAST LANSING, Mich. – Coming off a close 80-76 win over Oral Roberts, Michigan State (5-4) looked to add another win at home to their resume over Youngstown State (5-4) of the Horizon League. The Spartans would have to do so without star freshman and leading scorer Miles Bridges, as he remains sidelined due to an ankle injury. They did just that, beating the Penguins 77-57.

The Spartans started out hot, scoring 11 unanswered points which ultimately ended up surmounting to a 19-4 lead to begin the game in front of the Breslin Center crowd on Tuesday evening. But after a YSU 10-0 run helped by a couple Spartan turnovers, the Penguins were right back in the game, trailing 19-14.

But at halftime, Michigan State led 37-30, much in part due to their freshman scoring 20 of the 37 and their seniors only netting six, all of which were scored by Eron Harris. Matt Donlan led Youngstown State with 15 points on 5-of-11 shooting.

The Penguins were without their leading scorer Cameron Morse, a Flint, Mich. native who is averaging 23.7 PPG this season. He has been dealing with a wrist injury, and was held out tonight by YSU coach Jerry Slocum.

In the second half, the freshman trio of Cassius Winston, Joshua Langford and Nick Ward dazzled the Spartan faithful, scoring 16 of MSU’s 40 points in those 20 minutes. It could have been more as well, as Ward went a dismal 1-of-6 from the charity stripe.

In his postgame press conference, coach Tom Izzo talked about how he was proud of his team, but still wanted to see more from his seniors.

“[They improved by] a step. Defense was ok,” Izzo said. “But when I got a freshman playing better defense than a sophomore and senior, that’s not settling.” Matt Van Dyk, a former walk on, also led the team in rebounds. “I’m just trying to figure out if that’s good news or bad news,” he said with a chuckle.

Langford ended as the leading scorer for Michigan State with a career-high 15 points in 19 minutes, but deferred the credit towards his teammates after the game.

“Cassius and Tum did an unbelievable job of finding me and my bigs did an unbelievable job setting screens [for me]. I just made the shots,” Langford said.

But with that being said, he agrees with Izzo about his conditioning.

“Right now, I just need to make sure I get my conditioning up so I can give more to my team,” Langford added. “We’ve seen the things we need to get better at. I feel like I had a couple defensive mistakes [tonight], but I think I definitely did get better.”

Harris added 13 points on 6-of-14 shooting, Ward earned 13 points and eight rebounds and Matt McQuaid finally found his stroke from beyond the arc, sinking three trey’s to end with 11 points on the evening.

Winston ended just shy of a double-double, tallying eight points and nine assists. But what goes beyond the stat sheet is what’s in his mind as a point guard and a general on the hardwood. And according to Winston, it’s coming along.

“The game is starting to come easier to me,” he said. “It took longer than the team and I needed it to, but it’s starting to come along.”

“Really I think it was just my energy towards [the game],” Winston said. “I’m not the greatest defender, so I’m gonna have some lapses, but I make up for it with my energy.”

Izzo didn’t shy away from Winston’s potential to be one of the best to ever come through East Lansing when asked about it, though.

“The leadership thing is something we’re gonna keep hammering,” Izzo said. “If he gets that, he’s gonna be a hell of a player. But it ain’t gonna take one year. I can promise you that.”

The Spartans’ (6-4) next contest will be against Tennessee Tech (4-6) on Saturday at 2 p.m. ET from the Breslin Center. It will be MSU’s third game of a five-game homestand.