Gophers drop first game as a ranked team
EAST LANSING, Mich. -- Miles Bridges did not play the last time Michigan State rallied to beat Minnesota. With the freshman standout back in the lineup, the Spartans simply dominated the 24th-ranked Golden Gophers.
Bridges scored all 16 of his points before halftime, helping Michigan State build a huge lead it used to cruise to a 65-47 victory over No. 24 Minnesota on Wednesday night.
"In the first half he was a man-child, did a lot of great things," Spartans coach Tom Izzo said. "It was kind of funny because last week after the game, his mother texted me that he was too casual. I give her credit. He got back to beast mode."
Bridges was aggressive, and effective, right from the start with a dunk, layup and jumper to put Michigan State up 11-4.
"I was taking the right shots," he said. "Bad shots are turnovers."
Bridges bounced back from two lackluster games following a seven-game absence with a sprained left ankle. He scored a total of 10 points in the previous two games.
"When Miles Bridges is healthy, you've got to look out," Minnesota coach Richard Pitino said.
Pitino didn't have to worry about Bridges in the last matchup when Michigan State won in overtime after trailing by 13 at halftime.
The Spartans (12-6, 4-1 Big Ten) started the night in a five-way tie atop the conference with the Golden Gophers (15-3, 3-1) and moved a half-game ahead of No. 17 Purdue, Maryland and Nebraska.
Michigan State led the entire game, went ahead by 22 points at halftime and easily kept a comfortable lead.
The Golden Gophers have four players averaging at least 10 points a game, but had just two score in double digits against Michigan State. Nate Mason scored 14 and Dupree McBrayer had 11 points.
"Top to bottom, it was a poor performance," Pitino said. "That was the first time I felt (my team was) young."
Minnesota: The Gophers are ranked for the first time in nearly four years and will likely fall out of The Associated Press poll after their most lopsided loss of the season. After losing the last time to Michigan State, they beat then-No. 15 Purdue in overtime by nine points for the first of two straight road wins for the first time since the 2011-12 season.
"You're ranked and everybody loves you and all this nonsense," Pitino said. "It's too early for any of it."
Michigan State: The Spartans may move back in the poll, showing some of their potential with Bridges playing as he did before his injury. Bridges is part of a four-player recruiting class that Izzo is counting on and two of his fellow freshmen played well against Minnesota. Joshua Langford scored nine of his 13 points in the first half for the Spartans and Nick Ward, who fouled out, had nine points and eight rebounds in 13 minutes.
Even though Langford scored in single digits the previous six games, Pitino insisted he wasn't surprised by his play.
"He's one of the best freshmen in the country," Pitino said. "He played like a McDonald's All-American."
ON THE BOARDS
Michigan State outrebounded Minnesota 42-39, holding Jordan Murphy to four rebounds. Murphy grabbed 21 rebounds in the previous meeting to help the Gophers have a seven-rebound edge.
"That was our main focus, to get him off the glass," Bridges said.
The Spartans wore retro uniforms , featuring MAC on their jerseys in a nod to the school's original name, Michigan Agricultural College. Izzo joked the gear may have helped his team defense like it did years ago, holding the Gophers to 33.3 percent shooting.
"Maybe it's the old-school unis," Izzo said.
Minnesota: The Gophers play Saturday at Penn State, their fourth road game in a five-game stretch.
Michigan State: The Spartans play Sunday at Ohio State.
"It's going to be a test of our toughness," Bridges said.