Bloomington, Ind. — The integration of Miles Bridges back into Michigan State’s game plan continues to be a work in progress.
After scoring 24 points on 9-for-12 shooting last weekend at Ohio State, the freshman struggled on Saturday in the 82-75 loss at Indiana. Bridges finished with 13 points and 10 rebounds but was just 4-for-17 from the field, including 2-for-7 from 3-point range.
“I could have done more,” Bridges said. “I was going too fast. I wasn’t mentally in the game in the first half. Second half I started to pick it up.
“I wasn’t tired. I just couldn’t put the ball in the hole for some reason today.”
For Michigan State coach Tom Izzo, the challenge has been to not wear out Bridges after he missed seven games with an ankle injury. He was criticized for how he juggled the rotation in the loss at Ohio State, and on Saturday, Bridges played for longer stretches and finished playing 37 minutes, which matched the most he’s played all season.
It had an effect, Izzo believes.
“We played him a little too long,” Izzo said. “You know, everybody was worried about how much we played him. All the things I catch crap for — who plays, who subs, who guards who, who doesn’t guard anybody, how long Miles plays. It’s all comical now.
“He looked kind of tired to me. We did a good job subbing him the last game and did a poor job today. We have to do a better job and a lot of that falls on me. We’ve got do better job.”
While Bridges had his problems offensively, the same can’t be said for senior Eron Harris, who scored 21 and played 36 minutes after seeing the floor for just 13 minutes against Ohio State.
It’s all part of the rotation that continues to elude the Spartans as they struggle to find consistency, something that is harder with so many freshmen playing. Nick Ward was solid, scoring 15 points, but Joshua Langford was fairly quiet and Cassius Winston was up and down.
“Nick Ward played OK. Not great but OK,” Izzo said. “I was happy with his attitude. His focus was so much better and that was encouraging. Cassius had two different halves. You don’t get to have two different halves on the road, not in this league.”
Miles Bridges was 4-for-17 shooting in MSU's loss to Indiana. He finished with 13 points and 10 rebounds.
Michigan State had a bit of an eventful trip getting to Bloomington. The Spartans’ flight out of Lansing on Friday night was delayed nearly four hours because of a mechanical problem, forcing the team to hold a film session in the terminal.
They arrived in Bloomington after midnight, moving the usual shoot-around the night before the game to Saturday morning.
“We were supposed to get down here for a shoot-around and a walk-through, get the freshmen acclimated,” Izzo said. “That didn’t work out. We had to have film at the terminal by one of the gates. It worked out. It was a memory-making event.”
One step forward ...
Michigan State entered Saturday’s game with an 11-2 record overall and a perfect 4-0 mark in Big Ten play when it turned the ball over 15 times or fewer.
Against Indiana, it gave the ball away only 12 times, resulting in the first conference loss when it had that few turnovers. However, it ended up at 12 after a much better second-half performance as the Spartans handed the ball over eight times in the first half.
Indiana took advantage of the ones it got, scoring 23 points off the 12 turnovers.
“Part of it is our young guys settled down in the second half,” Izzo said. “(Matt) McQuaid really struggled today, catching the ball with one hand, things like that. Our guys would make a mistake and they would take it down the court for an easy layup.”
While Michigan State continues to play without Gavin Schilling and Ben Carter, Indiana is having its share of injury problems as well.
The Hoosiers were already without forward Collin Hartman and lost forward OG Anunoby to a knee injury suffered this week in a win against Penn State. On Saturday, they were also still without forward Juwan Morgan, who missed the Penn State game with an ankle injury.