East Lansing — Using a matchup with Stony Brook to bounce back from a loss to top-ranked Duke, Michigan State worked out some of its kinks en route to a 93-71 victory on Sunday.
While a bounce-back was what Tom Izzo and the Spartans were focused on when the game tipped off, it quickly shifted to the health of star sophomore Miles Bridges who left the game with an apparent ankle injury in the second half.
He was fouled on a drive late in the second half and twisted his ankle in the process. He went to the locker room after the injury and didn’t return, finishing with 20 points and six rebounds.
According to Izzo, it’s not a high-ankle sprain, so the Spartans dodged serious damage.
“Everyone will want to know about Miles,” Izzo said. “It’s a sprain. Thank goodness it’s not a high-ankle sprain. He’s day-to-day.”
The timeframe for Bridges' return is unclear, a little cloudy, but Izzo expects to know within a few days if the sophomore will be ready for Thursday’s game against DePaul.
“They say 24 (to) 48 hours is when you know more about a sprained ankle,” Izzo said. “I’d say by Tuesday morning, I’ll know a little bit more. Miles is tough enough to play through it, but we’re not going to take any chances.”
It wasn’t a smooth ride for the Spartans as Stony Brook (0-4) was hitting its shots early on, including 6-of-8 from 3-point range. At one point, the Seawolves held a 22-15 lead, but the Spartans went on an 18-8 run to end the first half with a 44-38 advantage.
Michigan State (2-1) took the lead with 3:33 to play in the first and never looked back.
“That’s a high-powered offense,” Stony Brook coach Jeff Boals said. “I think we did get a little tired, gave up some easy baskets. I really like this (Michigan State) team. I think they’ve gotten better each game. (Izzo) have them prepared and ready to play.”
After allowing 25 offensive rebounds to Duke on Tuesday, Tom Izzo made it a point of emphasis to crash the boards at practice this week and the Spartans responded, winning the battle on the boards, 41-25.
Nick Ward led the Spartans with 22 points and 11 rebounds, his first double-double of the season, and Josh Langford added 19.
“It felt good (to record a double-double),” Ward said. “I did what I could for my team. I thought I played pretty good. My confidence is always high with my team. It’s always high, I think we can beat anybody.”
Langford’s sharp-shooting was a good sign for the Spartans.
He finished the game 8-of-13 from the floor while making one of his three 3-point attempts. He had made just 8-of-18 shots in the two games prior to Stony Brook, but his confidence remained high.
“I don’t think it was a slump,” Langford said. “A lot of shooters go through different phases where they’re just not making shots. I think the biggest thing, especially with basketball, it’s really a correlation with life. Sometimes you have ups and you have downs, you have adverse moments.
“The great players know how to adapt to those changes and I feel like I’m a shooter, so I put in a lot of work and I know everything is going to speak for itself.”
Michigan State has plenty of depth, but was looking for more production from its rotational players.
The biggest spark off the bench was freshman Xavier Tillman, who finished with a career-high nine points, five rebounds and three blocks.
Tillman ignited the crowd within his first minute off the bench, blocking back-to-back shots on one Stony Brook possession.
“(It was) a confidence-builder,” Tillman said. “I didn’t really think about it until I heard the crowd going kind of crazy.”
Although the matchup with Stony Brook was considered part of the Phil Knight Invitational, or PK80, as a campus game, it had no effect on the tournament bracket.
Elijah Olaniyi had 16 points and Akwasi Yeboah added 15 for Stony Brook.
Michigan State will travel to Oregon for the rest of the PK80, opening with DePaul on Thursday night at 11:30 p.m.
“We’re holding teams under 40 (percent) which is decent, but it’s not great,” Izzo said. “We out-rebounded (Stony Brook) by 15-16 which is decent, but not great. Considering what we played with, I think we did a better job than I give us credit for.”
Connor Muldowney is a freelance writer