Blowing big leads a problem for Michigan State, which almost did it again
Michigan State had to survive a furious comeback from Wichita State to clinch third place in the Battle 4 Atlantis on Friday. The Spartans, who lead by as many as 18 points in the game, held on late to win 77-72 behind another solid performance from freshman Miles Bridges.
After Tom Izzo apologized to his team on Thursday for scheduling a tough slate, the Spartans, which have dropped out of our Top 25 (and one) rankings, showed the kind of resilience they’ll need to display moving forward in edging the Shockers, though the performance was far from perfect as evidenced by that nearly blown 18-point lead.
Here are three takeaways:
1. Miles Bridges comes up clutch
With eight minutes remaining in the first half, Bridges committed his second foul and was forced to the bench — a tough decision for Izzo, whose thin team really can ill-afford to have Miles out for any length of time.
The coaching decision paid off, as Bridges rewarded Izzo with some big-time minutes down the stretch, scoring five points in the final two minutes, including a back-breaking 3-pointer that helped give the Spartans a cushion during a Shockers surge that was threatening to overwhelm them.
2. Spartans show some depth
Bridges’ foul trouble early on could have gone either way for the Spartans, who were down by a point when Miles went to the bench and in danger of going into halftime on a bad note. Instead, they went on a 13-4 run and led by 10 at the break. Big swing.
Matt McQuaid came up huge, putting up 13 points on 4-of-7 shooting, including 3 of 4 from 3-point land. It’s the most points he’s put up since the opener against Mississippi Valley State, and they couldn’t have come at a better time. The bench put up 40 points in all — arguably their best performance of the early season.
Freshman Nick Ward stepped up once again by adding 13 points in 22 minutes, including two big free throws down the stretch. With Ward on the floor, Michigan State had a lethal scoring threat that helped keep the Shockers’ defense honest. He needs more minutes, will probably get them, and he proved he can handle them Friday.
3. MSU nearly Shocked … again
Trailing by as many as 15 in the second half, Wichita State put on the full-court press — literally — to nearly complete the comeback. The Shockers took care of the ball and played a consistent, clean game, while forcing the Spartans into 15 turnovers that almost came back to haunt them.
For Michigan State, closing out games has been a problem. They blew a 15-point lead to Arizona before eventually losing that game, and a 10-point lead to Baylor in that loss. It’s somewhat of a learning process for such a young team to close out games, but with the Spartans playing their fifth game in a week’s span, it says a lot about their toughness to overcome some fatigue to finish the pesky Shockers.