Tom Izzo meets the media after Michigan State exhibition victory over Hillsdale. Matt Charboneau
East Lansing — The practice games are done.
Michigan State now gets set to prepare for the real thing after dispatching Hillsdale on Friday night, 75-44, in the final exhibition game of the season.
It was about what was expected — the No. 2 team in the nation simply outmanning the Division II team from the Great Midwest Athletic Conference.
Nick Ward scored 14 and grabbed 13 rebounds for the Spartans while Jaren Jackson Jr. scored 12 and grabbed 13 rebounds, also going 2-for-3 from 3-point range. Cassius Winston added 11 points and six assists and Miles Bridges scored 10 on just 4-for-13 shooting.
However, the offensive execution was far from what coach Tom Izzo was hoping for. Michigan State shot 45.9 percent from the field (28-for-61) and 27.8 percent from 3-point range (5-for-18).
“I’m mad about an exhibition game and getting a technical,” Izzo said. “I guess the season is ready to get started.
“But honestly, I was really disappointed in our offensive execution. We shot the ball poorly, were settling for 3s early. I just thought we did a poor, poor job and just about everybody on the team did.”
The Spartans played well defensively, though some of that was helped by the poor shooting of the Chargers, who were just 5-for-28 in the first half and finished 13-for-56. Michigan State also dominated the glass, grabbing 56 rebounds to 34 for Hillsdale.
Jaren Jackson on Michigan State's win over Hillsdale. Matt Charboneau
But with the poor shooting extending to the free-throw line — Michigan State was 5-for-16 in the second half after making all nine attempts in the first — and with the Spartans' best player frustrated, it was far from the perfect ending to the exhibition season.
“I know if I have a bad game somebody else on the team is able to pick me up,” Bridges said. “I wouldn’t say it was a bad game, I just wasn’t making shots. At the end of the day I’m gonna make shots.
“We’re just getting back in game mode. We’ve been stuck in practice mode and have to translate that to the game.”
Michigan State now looks to the start of the regular season next Friday when it hosts North Florida. After that, it’s the likely No. 1 vs. No. 2 showdown with Duke Nov. 14 in the Champions Classic in Chicago.
The final tune-up was a slow start for both teams as Michigan State had committed nine team fouls more than midway through the opening half, which was one more point than Hillsdale as the Spartans led 20-8.
Michigan State eventually pushed the lead to 35-12 with 2:54 to play in the first half after a pair of free throws from Ward. But Hillsdale made its first two 3-poitners of the game and closed the half on an 8-2 to cut the Michigan State lead to 37-20 at halftime.
Michigan State used the same starting lineup as it did on Sunday in the victory over Georgia, going with Winston, Joshua Langford, Bridges, Jackson and Ward. Freshman Xavier Tillman was the first big man to come off the bench and played four minutes. Midway through the half, Gavin Schilling and Kenny Goins checked in for the first time as coach Tom Izzo continued to play with lineups and rotations.
With Kyle Ahrens out indefinitely after aggravating a foot injury he originally suffered in the summer, the Spartans used both Winston and Lourawls Nairn at the same time with Langford at the three and Bridges at the four. Later in the half, walk-on Connor George even saw some time at shooting guard.
Michigan State continued to pull away in the second half, its biggest lead reaching 33 points with a minute to play.
“I think we have lot more to give,” Jackson said. “Certain areas, mainly offensively, we just probably have to get up more shots and shoot better from field, especially the 3-point line. Our defense was solid but there’s always things to improve on, but it’s mostly focusing on the little things.”