The Michigan State Spartans did what they were supposed to do on Sunday, as they stomped past Stony Brook to improve to 2-1 on the season.
The Spartans had it going offensively, shooting 57.9 percent from the field, but they didn’t get out of the game unscathed as sophomore Miles Bridges, the preseason Big Ten player of the year, left the game with an ankle injury.
Here is what we learned from Sunday’s game.
What We Learned
1. Miles Bridges is day-to-day with an ankle injury.
It appears Bridges will avoid missing serious time, but an ankle injury to your potential All-American is never a pleasant thing to go through. The 6-foot-7 sophomore had 20 points and six rebounds on 6-of-13 shooting before attacking the paint and getting fouled with under 10 minutes to go in the second half. Bridges rolled his ankle in the process and headed to the locker room for evaluation.
Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said after the game that Bridges was day-to-day with a sprained ankle and that the team will know more on Tuesday in regards to his status for Thursday’s game against DePaul.
It’s a safe bet that Bridges sits out at least one game as the Spartans, and likely Bridges himself, won’t want to jeopardize anything that Bridges can offer later in the season. That’s not the end of the world. The second-ranked Spartans have enough firepower to survive without their best player early in the season. However, there could be issues if Bridges’ ankle has trouble fully healing and his comfort level is decreased as the season progresses.
For being a “what we learned” post, we really don’t know much about the Bridges issue and if it will even impact the season going forward. What we do know is one of the most exciting players to watch in college basketball may be a little less exciting and more tentative next time he steps on the floor.
2. Nick Ward can still hit the glass.
Ward had an up-and-down first two games of the season, filling it up on the offensive end while not putting up rebounding numbers and playing limited minutes. The 6-foot-8 sophomore averaged 17.5 points, 3.5 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game in the season-opening games against North Florida and Duke.
Ward, who averaged 6.5 rebounds in 19.8 minutes per game as a freshman, put everything together against Stony Brook. The big man caused troubles inside all night, shooting 8 of 10 from the field on the way to tallying 22 points, 11 rebounds, two blocks and two assists. That output is going to be huge for Michigan State going forward. Rebounding always plays and Ward controlling the game inside frees up a number of other things for the Spartans.
3. It’s not always going to be easy for Jaren Jackson Jr.
Jackson made the high school to college transition look easy through his first two collegiate games. The 6-foot-11 former five-star recruit averaged 16.0 points, 10.0 rebounds, 3.5 blocks, 2.0 assists and 1.5 steals per game in the matchups with North Florida and Duke.
Jackson faced his first individual adversity on Sunday, getting in foul trouble and going scoreless in just 14 minutes. Jackson grabbed four rebounds in the win, while he committed three turnovers and his only shot attempt came from behind the 3-point line before he fouled out.
Those who watched Jackson put up 19 points and seven rebounds against Duke know he’s going to be just fine this season. But games like this do happen for every freshman, and it’ll be interesting to see how Jackson bounces back against DePaul.
Michigan State is one of the best teams in the country, but there’s always something to take away from every game, no matter the score. The Spartans have enough talent and depth to beat anyone on their schedule, even without Bridges, but the earlier start to the Big Ten season this year does bring a slight wrinkle.
If Bridges does have to miss any length of time, the Spartans are scheduled to play No. 13 Notre Dame on Nov. 30, then open Big Ten play by playing Nebraska on Dec. 3 and Rutgers on Dec. 5. The Spartans would still be heavy favorites over either of those programs, but you still obviously want your best player available when conference play starts.
As a team, Michigan State has filled it up all season, averaging 90.7 points per game through three games. Once again, the Spartans shot 57.9 percent on Sunday, making 33 of their 57 shot attempts. That’s going to win you every game, and when the Spartans have all of their pieces clicking together, they’re going to be tough.