Michigan State's injury outlook improves with Kyle Ahrens return
East Lansing — For the first time in at least a couple of weeks, the injury news around Michigan State is starting to become less grim.
The sixth-ranked Spartans knocked off No. 13 Maryland, 69-55, on Monday night at the Breslin Center, and they had the benefit of doing so with junior guard Kyle Ahrens back in the lineup. It was his first game back after missing the previous two games with a back injury.
He played just 11 minutes, 33 seconds, scoring two points and grabbing one rebound, but just getting the veteran wing on the floor was critical.
“Kyle only practiced a day … a day and a half,” Michigan State coach Tom Izzo. “We'll have to figure out how we'll handle these next couple of days. It's gonna be hard for him and for Cassius. We got a lot out of a lot of guys.”
Winston banged his knee on Monday, but the next couple of days Izzo was talking about was how the Spartans will prepare for the next two games — at Iowa on Thursday and at Purdue on Sunday. It seems Ahrens will continue to see his minutes grow while Winston was no worse for wear after the game.
All of that was secondary to the most hopeful news Michigan State has had in several weeks on junior guard Joshua Langford. He missed his sixth straight game with an ankle injury, but there at least appears to be some progress.
“He is in the boot now, but he had the boot off for three-fourths of a day and actually shot some yesterday and that was encouraging,” Izzo said. “A timetable, it’s not going to be Thursday. Now that the boot has been taken off periodically, and now that he can work out a little bit, I think we are starting to see a little progress here which is music to my ears.”
Nick way off
Junior center Nick Ward battled foul trouble the entire game and was held without a point for the first time in his Michigan State career. He played only 13:39 and took just three shots.
“Nick was frustrated, but he handled it well,” Izzo said. “I was frustrated. I was more frustrated than he was. I thought he did a helluva job, but he didn't even get into the game. He only took two or three shots but did get five rebounds in that short period of time. That was good.
“But we've gotta do a better job with Nick. He can't get in that foul trouble. He wasn't in that game at all.”
With Ward out, it did offer the chance for freshman Thomas Kithier to get some key minutes late in the first half. He responded, scoring four points, grabbing two rebounds and playing solid defense.
Bridges in the Breslin
Former Michigan State standout Miles Bridges was on hand for the game.
The NBA Lottery pick of the Charlotte Hornets had a break in his schedule and made it to East Lansing where he kissed the Spartan logo at midcourt before the game and received his Big Ten championship ring from last season.
Bridges was a sophomore last season and chose not to take part in the Senior Day tradition of kissing the floor.
“It was awesome. That is the tradition,” Izzo said. “That is one thing that Denzel (Valentine) and Draymond (Green) said, that is as emotional as anything that they did so it was pretty cool. Miles came back and I said, ‘Do you want a chance to kiss the Spartan head?’ and he said, ‘Hell yeah I do.’
“I love when those guys come back. It was great to spend time with him this afternoon. He was awesome.”