Confident Spartans cruise to 11th straight win
East Lansing — Offensive efficiency was the name of the game on Thursday night at the Breslin Center and Michigan State rode that into the holiday break.
Five players scored in double figures as the Spartans shot 60.9 percent from the field to cruise past Long Beach State, 102-60. It was the 11th straight victory for No. 2 Michigan State, which doesn’t play again until Dec. 29 when it hosts Cleveland State.
It was the second straight game Michigan State (12-1, 2-0 Big Ten) shot better than 60 percent from the field after a 64.3-percent outing against Houston Baptist on Monday. The Spartans were also 13-for-29 from 3-point range on Thursday, the most 3-pointers they’ve hit in a game this season.
It was also the first time Michigan State scored 100 points in back-to-back games since 2004 when it scored 104 in a win over Green Bay on Nov. 23 and followed that with 102 in a victory against Nicholls State.
“There’s a lot to be thankful for going into the Christmas break,” Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said. “The balance we had with almost six in double figures. … Other than giving up some layups, for the most part we were OK. It’s a good way to leave on the break with 28 assists on 39 baskets. The unselfishness continues.”
Joshua Langford scored 17 to lead the Spartans, making six of his first seven shots. Nick Ward added 16 points on 7-for-8 shooting while grabbing six rebounds and blocking three shots. Ward is 16-for-17 in the last two games, his only miss coming at the end of the first half on Thursday.
Miles Bridges scored 17 points and pulled down nine rebounds for Michigan State while Jaren Jackson Jr. had 13 points, six rebounds and four blocks. Cassius Winston scored 13 and handed out eight assists, four coming in the first three minutes of the game.
“We were moving the ball, stepping into shots confidently and knocking shots down,” Winston said. “That’s a pretty good look for us. It’s fun out there playing like that, everybody playing with confidence, moving the ball and nobody being selfish, so it's good.”
Long Beach State (5-9) did its best to keep up, shooting the ball well itself. The 49ers were better than 40 percent from the field for most of the game, impressive considering Michigan State entered the game with the best field-goal percentage defense in the nation.
The 49ers finished shooting 40.7 percent (24-for-59) with Gabe Levin scoring 14.
“This is a tough place to play, and a tough place to win,” Long Beach State coach Dan Monson said. “I was very impressed with Michigan State.”
Michigan State had an efficient first half, shooting 63 percent from the field as seven players scored. Ward was 5-for-6 from the field and had 12 points while Langford was 4-for-5 and scored 11.
After Long Beach State scored the first basket of the game, Michigan State scored the next 10, including a highlight-reel putback dunk from Bridges on a miss from Winston.
The 49ers cut the Spartans’ lead to 18-15 with 11:45 to play, but Michigan State took control from that point with a 15-4 run. Langford hit a pair of jumpers in that stretch while Winston and Jackson each scored five points, as well.
A 3-pointer by Bridges in the final minute gave the Spartans a 48-32 lead at the break but the half ended with Ward’s only miss, a fall-away jumper from the baseline at the buzzer after Bridges gave the ball up in the final seconds.
“It was all because of him,” Ward yelled across the locker room, giving Bridges a hard time.
“Yeah, he wouldn’t have missed a shot in two games if I don’t give him that pass,” Bridges said. “That’s my bad.”
There was no let-up in the second half as the Spartans opened with a 12-4 run and continued to pile on from there. A Langford 3-pointer made it 69-43 with 12:25 to play and the lead extended to 80-47 with 6:36 to play on a putback from Bridges.
The surge continued as Matt McQuaid dished to Gavin Schilling for a layup and Bridges scored on a drive to the hoop to extend Michigan State’s lead to 94-54 with 3:35 to play. Xavier Tillman scored on a driving layup to each the 100-point mark and Conner George closed the scoring on a transition layup.
“We’re just more confident,” Bridges said. “I feel like when I injured my ankle, Cassius and Josh and McQuaid had those good games. Nick is always confident, so I just feel like everybody had their confidence up and is making shots.”