No. 2 Michigan State roars past North Florida behind Bridges' double-double
EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) Miles Bridges set up teammates at the start of his sophomore season, dishing the basketball instead of shooting it himself.
The leading vote-getter for The Associated Press preseason All-America team scored in a variety of ways later in the game, including a layup after going around his back with the basketball as he went up for the shot.
Bridges finished with 20 points and 10 rebounds, helping No. 2 Michigan State beat North Florida 98-66 on Friday night in a tuneup for a highly anticipated game.
“I didn’t want to force anything,” he said. “We’ve got so many weapons. I can wait to get mine.”
The Spartans will face No. 1 Duke on Tuesday night in Chicago.
Michigan State took control against the Ospreys with a 19-0 run midway through the first half, led by 26 at halftime and coasted to a lopsided win in the opener for both teams.
“They are fast as any team in America from baseline to baseline,” North Florida coach Matthew Driscoll said. “And, they have as much length as I’ve ever seen.”
North Florida’s Ivan Gandia-Rosa had 19 points, Garrett Sams scored 13 and Wajid Aminu added 10 points.
Freshman Jaren Jackson had 13 points, 13 rebounds, four blocks, three assists and two steals in his debut with the Spartans.
“That’s a monumental day,” coach Tom Izzo said.
Driscoll said Jackson, who some have projected as a top pick in the 2018 NBA draft, is in a great position with a talented and experienced team.
“He doesn’t have to worry about being the man or the go-to,” he said. “He’s not going to be put in tough situations.”
Michigan State’s Nick Ward scored 11 of his 16 points in the first 7-plus minutes of the game. Joshua Langford scored 13 points and Cassius Winston had 12 points and eight assists.
North Florida: The Atlantic Sun Conference team could be proud of the way it challenged one of the nation’s top teams at the start of each half, but Driscoll refused to say that was a positive takeaway.
“I’m not a moral victory guy,” he said.
Michigan State: The Spartans may have had two flaws exposed. They missed all six of their 3-point attempts in the first half and finished just 3 of 12 beyond the arc. And, they had 21 turnovers.
“I’m disappointed in our shooting,” Izzo said. “We got a little sloppy.”
Michigan State had nine of 10 blocks in the first half.
“That’s one of our strengths with the bigs we have,” Bridges said.
STANDING WITH A STATEMENT
Michigan State players and coaches stood during the anthem, putting their right hands over their hearts and wearing green T-shirts with a social message on both sides. The front had “We Talk We Listen,” in white lettering and the back read,” It’s Not About Me. It’s About Us.”
Michigan State, playing its first basketball game since Jud Heathcote died, opened the game in a zone defense and Izzo wore a green blazer in a tribute to the former coach.
“It was kind of an emotional night,” Izzo said.
North Florida: Stays in state, traveling about 60 miles to play at Michigan on Saturday night.
Michigan State: Faces an early test, matching up with the Blue Devils.
“It’s a big game,” Izzo acknowledged. “I’m sure our players are excited about it. And, I wouldn’t want it any other way.”