'Do-it-all' freshman Bridges dazzles in MSU exhibition win
East Lansing — When Miles Bridges took the court for warmups on Thursday night his first shot missed the rim completely.
For the Michigan State freshman, that was hardly a sign things were going to go poorly in his first exhibition game with the Spartans. Instead, it was the typical indicator that Bridges was about to have a big night.
“I was real comfortable coming out there and I always airball my first shot in warmups, so that’s how I knew I was going to be comfortable,” Bridges said. “My teammates got me the ball in the right spots, so it was good game for me.”
That might be a bit of an understatement.
Good was nearly perfect as Bridges scored 33 points on 12-for-14 shooting including 5-for-5 from 3-point range to lead Michigan State to a 93-69 victory over Northwood at Breslin Center.
“He’s a great player, man,” junior guard Lourawls Nairn said. “I expected it. I’m not gonna say I expected 33 points, but he can do it all and it was fun to be a part of.”
It was the first chance for Michigan State fans to see the new-look Spartans, and the heralded freshman class didn’t disappoint. It was far from a defensive masterpiece as few exhibition games are with plenty of new faces on the court. What the Spartans did not have trouble doing was putting the ball in the basket, and Bridges was the catalyst.
The 6-foot-7 forward was a perfect 7-for-7 from the field in the first half and he added eight rebounds and four blocks, all of those coming in the first half, as well.
“I thought Bridges played decent,” Michigan State coach Tom Izzo deadpanned. “He did it all in the framework (of the offense). He looked very smooth, very comfortable. We posted him some, played him at the 3 some, let him handle the ball some.
“I think he fit in to what we said we’d do with him and he handled that very, very well.”
Bridges also got his teammates involved.
One of his best plays of the night wasn’t a made 3-pointer or a powerful dunk, however, it was a dish to sophomore forward Kyle Ahrens for a dunk in the first half.
“I love assists way more than I love points and I love to see my teammates succeed more than I do,” Bridges said. “Anytime I see my teammate back door or open for a shot I’m gonna pass it rather than score. I just want to get my teammates involved, that gets me going too.”
Two of those teammates were his fellow freshmen — center Nick Ward and guard Cassius Winston. Ward scored 19 and pulled down seven rebounds as he logged 21 minutes as one of Michigan State’s few post players. Cassius Winston, the other freshman who saw action, was also active, playing 24 minutes while scoring nine and handing out nine assists.
“It’s exciting,” Ward said. “I loved it. I loved every minute of it. I love my teammates and I loved the fans.”
Northwood had four players in double figures, including 12 from West Bloomfield native Zach Allread. PJ Weaver added 12 while Jarel Woolridge scored 11 and Brad Schaub added 10 points for the Timberwolves.
While Michigan State took some time to find any offensive rhythm, it didn’t take as long for Bridges to get rolling. He had two blocked shots before his first bucket, a 3-pointer that bounced off the rim and rolled in.
He later added the thunderous dunk on the drive from the top of the key, got a couple more blocks and finished the opening half with 17 points on 7-for-7 shooting, including 2-for-2 from 3-point range.
“Where do you start?” Northwood coach Jeff Rekeweg said of Miles. “He is a man-child. He’s not a kid he’s a man. His understanding of the game, the way he carries himself is beyond any freshman I’ve seen before.
“Is there any way Bridges can’t score? He scores at every level.”
Ward and Winston also had key stretches in the first half as Ward scored seven points and grabbed four rebounds while Winston had five points and five assists in the opening half.
In the second half, Northwood kept it close but Michigan State pulled away late as Bridges hit three more 3-pointers, his last coming in the final minutes to get the crowd on its feet one last time.
“I can’t say I have (played with someone like Bridges) if I’m honest with you,” sophomore forward Kenny Goins said. “He has the athleticism of Branden Dawson but he can shoot the ball about as well as Travis Trice. He can do it all -- driving and everything in between, and is crazy to watch.”
The fourth member of Michigan State’s freshman class, guard Joshua Langford, did not play because of a slight hamstring pull.
Izzo said Langford was close to playing and could not see a scenario where Langford would not play in next week’s second exhibition game against Saginaw Valley State on Wednesday.
“I told him he’s in college now and it was a gray area whether or not he would play,” Izzo said. “The hardest thing as a coach is how hard to push somebody. Is it he hurt or is he injured? If you’re hurt you gotta play. If you’re injured you never should play.
“Josh needs to get time out there because he’s a really good layer and can help us. We need to get him some time. I see no reason why he would not play next week. He was teetering on the bubble today.”
Goins gets going
Goins is slowly working his way back from offseason knee surgery and started on Thursday while playing 18 minutes.
“I’m feeling all right,” said Goins, who is wearing a brace on his left knee. “I’m just trying to get back in the swing of things. It’s hard to come off an injury and not play in a game for so long. No matter how much you practice it’s not like a game, but I feel good. I feel healthy.”