1. The sophomores can score
In the Spartans’ 93-71 win over Stony Brook on Sunday evening, 74 of the team’s 93 points came from sophomores. Every sophomore in the starting five reached the double-digit mark in points scored.
Forward Nick Ward led the way, putting up 22 points and making eight of his 10 field goal attempts. He also had 11 total rebounds to give him his first double-double double of the season.
Star forward Miles Bridges put up 20 points before leaving the game with an apparent ankle injury. In the first half, Bridges made just two of his eight shot attempts. In the second half, Bridges came back out to nail four of his five attempts.
Guard Cassius Winston reached double-digits as well, putting up 13 points and sinking two of his three attempts from beyond the arc. Winston led the team with six assists and was creating great looks for his fellow sophomores, especially in the second half.
The biggest performance of the night came from guard Joshua Langford. He got off to a hot start in the first half, putting up nine points in the first eight minutes. Langford put up a career high 19 points in the game.
“Langford was the best guy on the court as far as both ends,” Izzo said.
The biggest takeaway from his performance was his ability to score inside. From someone who is a career 40 percent shooter from behind the arc, 16 of his 19 points came from inside the arc. His ability to score from inside and out could make Langford lethal going forward.
2. Jaren Jackson Jr. is, in fact, human
Coming off of a game in which he had 19 points, seven rebounds and three blocks against No. 1 Duke, it looked like freshman forward Jaren Jackson Jr. might be superhuman.
It turns out he’s not. Jackson looked lost on Sunday, turning the ball over three times and missing his only shot of the game.
“This might be the only time in his career he won’t score,” Stony Brook head coach Jeff Boals said. “He is an unbelievable talent.”
Jackson Jr. ran into foul trouble early in the game and eventually fouled out after just 13 minutes on the court. Since he ran into foul trouble early in the first half, he really had to tone down his aggressiveness on the court.
“He just showed his rookieness a little bit,” Izzo said. “He was only in the game for 14 minutes, but about eight of those he was playing not to foul.”
3. Xavier Tillman can do damage off the bench
With Jackson Jr. fouling out and junior forward Kenny Goins out with an injury, Xavier Tillman got an opportunity to prove himself. The freshman forward really shined in his limited playing time, putting up nine points and five rebounds in just 13 minutes off the bench.
“Tillman showed a lot, he’s a tough kid,” Izzo said. “I’m really, really pleased with him.”
Tillman made a difference with his efficiency. He converted all three of his field goal attempts, as well as making three of four shots from the free throw line. Not only was he landing about every shot, he also was a force defensively. He put up three blocks to go along with his five rebounds.
After this performance, prepare to see a lot more out of Tillman.
4. The Spartan backcourt set the pace
Of the Spartans’ 93 points, 32 of them came from Langford and Winston alone. But the more important takeaway is their field goal percentage, which was 62 percent. The duo really capitalized on their opportunities throughout the whole game.
Although Lourawls Nairn Jr. failed to score a point, he proved he can still move the ball around and set up shots for his teammates, as he dished out four assists off the bench. The trio had 15 of the team’s 20 assists.
5. The defense needs to step it up
The Spartans were trailing Stony Brook for most of the first half. Their defense allowed too many open looks, especially from three-point range. A whopping 39 of Stony Brook’s 71 points came from three-point range. In the first half, the Seawolves shot 46.8 percent from the arc.
“When we give up those kind of threes in the first half, it’s almost inexcusable,” Izzo said. Their success from the three-point line gave the Spartans an early deficit in the first half.
The defense did not get any better when they took the court again. The Seawolves increased their three-point percentage to 53.8 percent in the second half. Letting up that kind of success from long range is concerning against a team who is off to an 0-4 start. The Spartans will have to get much better guarding outside before conference games roll around.