EAST LANSING, Mich. — After an eventful day and week in East Lansing, the No. 6 Michigan State men’s basketball team took on Wisconsin on Friday night. The hosts emerged victorious, 76-61, only trailing the Badgers for eight seconds of the contest.
“There were a lot of things swirling around today and I was a little worried about whether they could stay focused in on the task at hand and they did a pretty good job of it,” said Izzo in the postgame press conference.
Forward Miles Bridges led the scoring with 24 points–15 of those coming in the first half–and 12 points from beyond the arc. Bridges continued his scoring onslaught in the Big Ten with his third-straight game scoring more than 20 points.
Another big contributor offensively was guard Cassius Winston, who put up 17 points in the game to go along with six assists.
“Cassius Winston went through a little bit early, but came down and hit some big threes late, and that was a big difference in the game,” said coach Tom Izzo in the postgame press conference.
Nick Ward recorded his seventh double-double of the season as he put up 12 points while grabbing 11 rebounds and five blocks.
Wisconsin sophomore guard Brevin Pritzl started off the scoring for the Badgers with a three-point basket. Michigan State forward Miles Bridges responded with a three-pointer of his own. The Spartans took a quick double-digit lead in the first nine minutes of the game off of a three-point basket by Bridges to put them up 20-8. The Spartans went into the half leading by a score of 37-21.
The Spartans got off to a slow start in the second half. Wisconsin went on an 8-2 run in the first four minutes of the half, pulling within six points.
Michigan State responded by putting up seven-straight points thanks to two 3-point baskets by Bridges and Cassius Winston and pulling their lead back to double digits. From there, it was all Michigan State.
For the Spartans, this was their third straight win after losing two of their previous three games, improving to 19-3 overall and 7-2 in the Big Ten.
“This was a big game for us. We just wanted to come in, lock in and execute our game plan and get a win,” said guard Joshua Langford.
Forward Jaren Jackson Jr. recorded his 72nd block of the season in the first half, passing the single-season block record at Michigan State, and passing it later in the game. He had a relatively quiet first half, but came out in the second and put up 11 points and three rebounds with a pair of blocks, moving him into sole possession of first place in blocks in a season.
“The last person to have that record was Ken Johnson, it was my first year here and he was a fifth-year senior,” said Izzo. “So I was very impressed with Jaren doing that.”
The Spartans tallied just 13 turnovers Friday, a huge improvement over their last game in which they had 25 giveaways against Illinois on Monday night, their most since committing 27 turnovers against Arizona back in 2005.
The Spartans will look to continue their improved play in their next matchup against Maryland on Sunday. The game tips off at 1 p.m. in College Park, Md.