Michigan State tightens up on turnovers in lopsided win over Northern

Matt Charboneau
The Detroit News
Nick Ward drives the baseline with his eyes on the basket.

East Lansing — A stiff test against the nation’s best isn’t a problem for Michigan State.

The Spartans faced No. 3 Gonzaga last weekend in a closed scrimmage in Minneapolis and will take on No. 1 Kansas next week at the Champions Classic in Indianapolis. 

So it’s no real surprise the intensity might not have been at its highest level Tuesday night when No. 10 Michigan State hosted Northern Michigan in its only exhibition game of the season.

The result was about what most expected as the Spartans rolled over the Wildcats, 93-47. But beating up on coach Tom Izzo’s alma mater his hardly what Michigan State was focusing on as Izzo said this week that the Spartans would focus on themselves.

BOX SCORE: Michigan State 93, Northern Michigan 47

Cutting down on the turnovers — Michigan State gave it away 19 times vs. Gonzaga — and playing better in the post were two of the main priorities against Northern Michigan. The Spartans were better in both areas as junior Nick Ward was dominant against the smaller Wildcats lineup, scoring 24 on 8-for-13 shooting. He was also grabbed nine rebounds in 20 minutes of play.

Junior Cassius Winston scored 13 and had seven assists in 22 minutes while committing a pair of turnovers after giving it up six times against Gonzaga. Junior Joshua Langford added 12 points but was just 2-for-8 shooting. 

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“You might wonder what (we) got out of that,” Izzo said.  “I did think we got a lot out of it. I thought Cassius played a lot better than he did Saturday in the things I needed him to do. Nick was as solid as he was Saturday, Saturday against better competition, but today Nick played within himself. I thought we got more out of (Matt) McQuaid today and you can see where Aaron Henry has a chance to be a freshman that can play right away because he’s got the strength to do it.

“We need to get Josh Langford going a lot more.”

While the veterans are a known commodity, all eyes, like most seasons, were on the freshman class.

All five of Michigan State’s first-year players saw action with Henry leading the way. The Indianapolis native scored six points, grabbed four rebounds and had an assist in 14 minutes of action.

Since the start of practice, Izzo has touted Henry as the most-ready of the freshmen to see significant playing time. 

“He's physically ready,” Izzo said last week. “He tied for the highest vertical (jump) on our team. He can shoot it good — not great yet — handles it great. He reminds me a lot of Alan Anderson we had here.

"He's very versatile. He definitely can play the two, three, and four. Good passer, and yet he needs experience on how to play hard every day, the same thing 90 percent of the freshmen need to know how to do.”

Center Marcus Bingham Jr. flashed his ability late in the game, scoring 12 points with 11 coming consecutively in one stretch. He sandwiched a put-back dunk with a pair of 3-pointers and the 6-foot-11, 215-pounder then added a conventional three-point play on the break.

The question moving forward is whether to redshirt Bingham.

“I told (assistant Dwayne Stephens) on the bench we’re not sure what we’re gonna do with Marcus and he scores 100 points and now probably thinks he’s ready for stardom,” Izzo said. “But he did do a nice job, we’ve just got to make some decisions. … It’s a matter of whether he’s strong enough to play against certain players.”

Point guard Foster Loyer scored two points and had two assists in 12 minutes while forward Thomas Kithier scored four points in five minutes. Wing Gabe Brown added a late 3-pointer and a pair of free throws and grabbed three rebounds in 10 minutes.


Twitter: @mattcharboneau