Recap: Bridges takes over, MSU moves on

Geoff Robinson
The Detroit News
Michigan State's Nick Ward and Bucknell's Avi Toomer battle for a loose ball during the early minutes of the game.

When it came time to answer the bell, Miles Bridges dialed up the intensity in front of a raucous crowd and became the best player on the court.

Bridges finished with a game-high 29 points, and the MSU defense shut down Bucknell in the second half as the Spartans advanced to the Round of 32 with a 82-78 win at Little Caesars Arena.

The game wasn't nearly as close as the final score would suggest, as Bucknell hit five 3-pointers in the final 1 minute, 18 seconds after trailing by 15 with two minutes remaining.

For their efforts, MSU will get the winner of tonight's TCU/Syracuse clash at LCA on Sunday.

The first half was an offensive shootout between Josh Langford and Zach Thomas, who went into the break with 15 and 20 points, respectively.

Langford finished with 22, while Cassius Winston got the double-double with 11 points and 10 assists.

Thomas netted 27, but in a moment he's sure to regret, the senior saw his career come to an end on a technical foul for arguing with the refs. He had four personal fouls before the the 'T', meaning he was assessed his fifth personal foul following the call.

It wasn't the collective performance Tom Izzo would have liked with only six players scoring. They'll need a more balanced effort on Sunday if they want to get through to next weekend's Sweet 16.

Thomas fouls out, career likely over

Zach Thomas was called for a technical foul after arguing for a foul call for one of his teammates.

Thomas, who has a game-high 27 points, was assessed his fifth personal foul following the exchange. It's a bit of a sad situation for Thomas, the Patriot League Player of the Year and a senior, whose career is likely over on a technical foul.

At the 5:37 mark, MSU is in a dominating position with a 68-54 lead.

Bridges starting to flex his muscles

Miles Bridges has started to take over this game.

The sophomore forward had a put-back dunk, a layup and a 3-pointer on three consecutive MSU possessions and things are looking good in Spartyland, as MSU leads 63-48 with 8:33 remaining.

Bridges has 21 points.

Bucknell is just 1-for-11 from the field in the second half. The Spartan offense started the second half slow, but Bucknell's inability to get quality looks has cost them the chance to stay in this game.

Spartans turning it up on defense

MSU has found itself in some foul trouble early in the second half, but Bucknell hasn't been able to take advantage, starting just 1-for-10 from the field since the break.

As it stands now, MSU leads 56-46 with with 10:49 remaining.

The Spartans have been called for five team fouls in the second, and after star Bucknell scorer Zach Thomas was called for his third personal foul, the Detroit crowd gave a deafening sarcastic cheer.

What Jackson Jr. giveth, Jackson Jr. taketh away

Jaren Jackson Jr. is finally on the board after going scoreless in the first half and MSU has a 52-43 lead at the 16:21 mark of the second half.

Jackson Jr. scored back-to-back buckets to push the Spartan lead to seven, but just a moment later was called for his third foul and relegated to the bench. That's a big foul on Jackson Jr., as he's the primary defender for Zach Thomas, who has struggled when the MSU big man has been on the floor.

Bucknell keeps pace with MSU in first half

It's Josh Langford vs. Zach Thomas.

At the half, MSU has a 44-40 lead thanks to Langford's team-high 15 points, but the Spartans aren't out of the woods yet.

Despite MSU shooting 61 percent from the field, Thomas has helped Bucknell keep pace with a game-high 20, including a 3-pointer that actually staked the Bison a one-point lead before Langford hit a jumper of his own.

The Spartans were up 23-12 and looked like they could put some distance between themselves and their 14th-seed opponent, but that's when Bucknell bounced back in a big way in the form of a 12-2 run.

Cassius Winston has showed up tonight. The sophomore U-D Jesuit product has nine points and six assists.

Bison bite back

Hold that last thought.

Out of the timeout, Bucknell has reeled off five consecutive points to cut MSU's lead to 23-19 with 7:55 to play in the first half.

Zach Thomas banked in a 3-pointer, his second contested long ball of the night. He's got 14 big points, as the Bison were in danger of letting the Spartans run away with this game in the first half.

Spartans starting to roll

MSU has started to assert itself.

Josh Langford (nine points) is now 4-for-5 from the field after a 3-pointer from the corner put the Spartans up 23-12 with 9:57 remaining in the first half.

The Spartans are on a 7-0 run.

Things have also swung on the other end of the floor, as Jaren Jackson Jr. showed off his length and athleticism with a blocked shot on a nice drive by a Bucknell guard.

Langford starting to heat up

Josh Langford has taken the torch from Nick Ward. The freshman has become aggressive and started looking for his shot. It's paid off, as he's 3-for-3 from the floor with six points.

At the 12:16 mark of the first half, MSU leads Bucknell 18-12.

Though they haven't played particularly well thus far, the Bison don't appear to be in awe of the Spartans. It will be interesting to see if they can hang around for the rest of the half and put some pressure on Tom Izzo's squad.

Ward off to a good start

Nick Ward got things going for MSU with a little bunny hook shot in the lane. He's got four early points as the Spartans have a 10-4 lead with 15:47 remaining in the first half.

Bucknell has gotten quite a few good looks around the rim, but they just haven't been able to convert.

Amazingly, there are a lot of empty seats at Little Caesars Arena. It sure looks like the NCAA should have rented those seat covers that the Pistons use for their home games. Yikes.


Michigan State vs. Bucknell

Tip-off: 7:10, Little Caesars Arena, Detroit

TV/radio: CBS/760 AM

Records: No. 3 seed Michigan State 29-4; No. 14 seed Bucknell 25-9

Next up: Winner faces the winner between No. 6 TCU and No. 11 Syracuse on Sunday.


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