EAST LANSING, MICH. – The Gophers were fortunate to open the Big Ten season against a Miles Bridges-less Michigan State team.
They were not so lucky to have to play the Spartans again after Bridges was back – and feeling like his old self.
Bridges missed seven games, including his team’s overtime win at Minnesota on Dec. 27 with an ankle injury. But he returned to form with a 16-point first half that was too much for the Gophers to overcome in a 65-47 loss to the Spartans Wednesday night at Breslin Center.
“I just got it all off my chest after I made my first three,” Bridges said. “I’m good driving the lanes - I did all that today. It was once I hit my first three, that’s when I really got into the game.”
The 6-foot-7 freshman scored just 10 points combined in his first two games back from injury against Rutgers and Penn State last week.
But Bridges looked like a completely different player from the start against the Gophers.
“Miles played OK,” Spartans coach Tom Izzo joked. “He was a man-child that first half. He did a lot of things. It was kind of funny because last week after the game, his mother texted me and said that he was too casual and not aggressive. She said that he had to get back to beast mode. So I give her credit for getting him back to beast mode, but did you see how tired he got in the first four minutes? He almost died.”
Bridges was full of energy to begin the game when he dunked emphatically over Jordan Murphy on his first basket. He scored six straight points to get the Spartans off to 9-2 start. Minnesota responded after going behind 11 to cut it to seven behind Dupree McBrayer, who scored all of his 11 points in the first half.
But Bridges ended the half with eight points during a 15-0 run that gave Michigan State a 22-point halftime lead.
Bridges dunked twice, hit two three-pointers, snatched six rebounds and blocked four shots in just 22 minutes.
Minnesota sophomore Jordan Murphy had no answer to why he only managed six points and four rebounds in 32 minutes against Bridges. Murphy had a 21-rebound performance in the last game against the Spartans.
“He’s a really good player,” Murphy said of Bridges. “He got to the rim and he got going. They were really physical and got going early.”
IZZO PRAISES AGAIN: Izzo let Pitino know how much respect he has for the Gophers once again, even after Wednesday’s blowout victory.
The Spartans were outplayed for most of the game in the last meeting. So Izzo made sure to remind his players how tough the Gophers would be this time around.
“I’m very impressed with Minnesota,” Izzo said. “I said I’m not sure that they’re the best team in the league. There are three or four teams that are up there right now with Indiana still, and of course, Purdue and Wisconsin, but they’re right in that group. They might have been the hottest team coming in, and so, in that respect, we had to raise our game a level.”
COFFEY COOLED: Minnesota was led by its freshman standout Amir Coffey in wins against Northwestern and Ohio State with a 17 and 19 points, respectively. The Hopkins native was Big Ten freshman of the week and averaged 15.3 points in his first four conference games, including 17 points against the Spartans in the opener.
But Coffey, who had more turnovers than field goals (3-1), scored only four points Wednesday on 1-for-5 shooting, to go with six rebounds and two steals in 32 minutes.
“As I just told Richard, there are ups and downs of trying to figure it out with freshmen,” Izzo said. “His freshman, Coffey, has been playing really well and was recruited at a high level. He just didn’t play as well tonight. I thought our defense was as good as it had been. It was just like old times.”