Michigan State had two weeks to think about their lethargic performance against rival Michigan in the Big Ten Tournament. The layoff didn’t seem to affect Miles Bridges and the Spartans.
Michigan State kicked off its quest for a National Championship with an 82-78 victory over The Bucknell Bison from the Patriot League. Bridges led the Spartans with 29 points, and Josh Langford had 22 points in a game that ended a lot closer than the final score indicated. In a tournament that’s seen every Big Ten team struggle at the beginning of their respective games, Michigan State came out of the gates firing and using their size against the Bison. However, the Spartans showed signs of inconsistency, allowing Bucknell to come back into the game after State would build a double-digit lead.
The Bison were led by Zach Thomas, who suffered a bloody nose early on in the game, but came back from it to score 27 points and chip in five rebounds. However, Thomas fouled out with just over six minutes remaining after receiving a technical foul after complaining about a teammate not getting a foul called on a shot attempt.
A huge bright spot for the Spartans was Langford, who nearly doubled his scoring average for the season after scoring five or fewer in his last three games. Michigan State got a scare in the second half when Nick Ward went up to catch a pass and fell to the ground and flipped over on his back. Ward was shaken up on the play, but after getting a few minutes of rest, he was okay to return.
Michigan State advances to the second round of the tournament and will play the winner of the Syracuse/TCU game. Both teams possess potential trouble for the Spartans, especially Syracuse’s zone defense, given the recent struggles Michigan State has had shooting the ball in the latter part of the season. However, if the Spartans shoot as they did against Bucknell, they should find themselves advancing to the Sweet 16 for the first time in three years.