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Bridges scores 21 as No. 3 Michigan State beats Rutgers

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PISCATAWAY, N.J. (AP) — After blowing out its last six opponents, including highly regarded North Carolina and Notre Dame, No. 3 Michigan State was due for one of those off nights.

It almost cost them against Rutgers.

Miles Bridges scored 21 points and the Spartans (8-1, 2-0 Big Ten) overcame their worst offensive performance of the season with a 62-52 victory over the surprising Scarlet Knights (6-3, 0-2) on Tuesday night.

“I don’t know how to say this to anybody, but we’re not perfect,” Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said. “We’re not as good as you guys write. We’re a good basketball team that has a chance to be a great one.”

Against Rutgers, the Spartans had 15 turnovers, gave up 20 offensive rebounds and they played like a team that was starting four sophomores and a freshman, Jaren Jackson Jr. who scored all 11 of his points in the second half and had eight of the Spartans’ season-high 13 blocks. Joshua Langford added 15 points on 6-of-20 shooting from the field.

“Don’t let it eat you alive,” Izzo added. “Don’t let it frustrate you and don’t read into things. We have a long way to go.”

Rutgers made Michigan State work for this one, holding the Spartans to season lows in points and shooting percentage (38.6). The previous low was 63 points and 40 percent shooting against North Carolina.

What Michigan State did well was play defense. It came into the game with the nation’s best field goal defense (34.2) and it held the Scarlet Knights to 25.8 percent shooting from the field (17 of 66).

“They missed some shots, but boy you can build a lot on a good defense,” Izzo said. “You know it can rescue you a lot of times. Pick a pro sport. Pick a different sport, from good pitching to good goaltending to good defense like the Warriors. We textbook their offense. It doesn’t change. Championships are won by good defense 99 percent of the time.”

Deshawn Freeman had 13 points and Geo Baker and Eugene Omoruyi added 11 apiece for Rutgers, which lost its third straight.

“I hate to lose and I think everyone here came here to beat teams like that,” Baker said. “We were really close. Like Coach (Steve Pikiell) said, there’s a bunch of little things that if we can improve, we can win that game.”

Trailing 45-43 with roughly 8 minutes to play, Mike Williams missed a 3-point attempt that could have given the Scarlet Knights the lead.

Jackson then scored inside and added two free throws to ignite an 8-3 run. Bridges set up one of Cassius Winston’s two late 3-pointers and Jackson hit a free-throw to push the advantage to 53-45 with 3:03 to play.

“We found a way to get it done,” Jackson said. “It was plain and simple. We have to find a way when it’s close like that in a dogfight.”

The Spartans had taken the lead for good when Matt McQuaid hit a jumper for a 36-35 edge. Jackson followed with a layup and rebound dunk and Langford added a jumper for a 42-35 lead.

Playing a Michigan State team that had won its last six games by no fewer than 18 points, Rutgers stunned even its own home crowd by scoring the first eight points. A 19-4 spurt capped by eight straight points by Bridges allowed the Spartans to take a 21-14 lead with just over 7 minutes left in the half, but Rutgers responded with a 12-5 and went to the locker room tied at 26.

The 26 points were the fewest by the Spartans in an opening half this season, and half of them came from Bridges.

BIG PICTURE

Michigan State: Playing their third game in six days and their sixth in 13 may have caught up to the Spartans. They looked sluggish and they got very little from Winston, until his late 3-pointers and even less from power forward Nick Ward, who was 1 of 5 from the field. He played so bad, Izzo only played him 1 minute in the second half.

Rutgers: This is a step forward for the Scarlet Knights. They are relentless on the both ends of the court and this game would have been a lot closer had they not missed so many layups and open shots.

BRIDGES: The conference’s preseason player of the year is finally getting over his sprained ankle. He was 7 of 17 from the field, including 5 of 11 from long range. He added five rebounds. “He can play the 2, the 3, and the 4. He causes problems,” Pikiell said.

UP NEXT

Michigan State returns home to play Southern Utah on Saturday.

After losing to unbeaten Florida State, No. 14 Minnesota and the Spartans the past week, Rutgers takes a step down and plays host to NJIT on Thursday.

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More AP college basketball: http://collegebasketball.ap.org and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25

VIDEO: Tom Izzo appears on Judge Mathis

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When sports figures, be they athletes or coaches, make guest appearances on television shows they’re usually seen on sitcoms with the occasional drama mixed in. A show in which court cases are argued? That doesn’t happen all too often.

Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo did just that during the summer, as he was part of the courtroom audience on “Judge Mathis.” The episode was filmed in mid August.

Judge Mathis took time to acknowledge Izzo’s presence in the court room, as his daughter was a student-assistant to the head coach during her time as a Michigan State student. Seated next to Izzo was Michigan State assistant Mike Garland.

Miles Bridges discusses being offered money during recruiting process

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With the FBI launching an investigation into corruption and fraud in college basketball last month, the entire sport has found itself under the microscope. Ten people, including four Division I assistant coaches, were arrested and there’s no telling just how long the FBI’s investigation will last or what information it will produce.

Michigan State forward Miles Bridges is considered by many to be the leading candidate for national Player of the Yeah honors, and he had the opportunity to turn pro after a good freshman season. But Bridges made the decision to return to East Lansing, and with that comes questions as to why he would do that as opposed to cashing in on his NBA potential as soon as possible.

In an interview with Brendan Quinn of The Athletic (subscription required) Bridges discussed a host of issues, including being offered money by people while going through the recruiting process.

“I mean, if you get caught, that might be the end of your career. I wanted to play in college really bad,” Bridges told Quinn. “I don’t know — materialistic things, they don’t really get to me. So when people were offering me money, I would say no right away, because I wanted to be able to live out my college experience. But really, I don’t know, it is hard, especially because I was so young at the time — 17.”

Given the ongoing investigation, high-profile players and teams will be on the receiving end of increased scrutiny even if they aren’t part of the FBI probe. It’s an unfair situation for a player like Bridges to deal with, as even in the actual cases of alleged wrongdoing the players themselves are essentially commodities whose services are being auctioned as opposed to the main characters looking to cash in.

Unfortunately, due to recent events a decision like the one made by Bridges will result in some questioning whether or not the player received something from the school or another entity/individual. And that’s a tough — and unfair — thing for a young player to have to deal with.

VIDEOS: Michigan State’s Miles Bridges puts on another show at local summer Pro-Am

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Watching Michigan State’s Miles Bridges throw down high-level dunks in local summer pro-ams has been a good way to pass the time the last few weeks.

The 6-foot-7 Bridges has been annihilating rims all summer as he had more ridiculous dunks on Tuesday night. Playing with former Michigan State star Denzel Valentine and some of his current Spartans teammates, Bridges had more crowd-pleasing plays to add to his summer reel.

Lansing State Journal reporter James Edwards III has been on the scene for Bridges’ games all summer as he has more dunks from the future lottery pick.

VIDEOS: Michigan State’s Miles Bridges is destroying local summer leagues with his dunks

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Michigan State sophomore forward Miles Bridges might be the Player of the Year next season as he’s been putting on a ridiculous show this summer in local pro-am leagues.

The nation’s best in-game dunker was at it again on Thursday night, putting down multiple ridiculous dunks, including an under-the-legs finish that ignited the crowd and a game-winning dunk at the end.

Bridges is a preseason favorite to be a first-team All-American next season as the Spartans are a national title contender.

Let’s get another look at that, shall we?

Bridges was also responsible for the game-winning, buzzer-beating putback. And all I want to know is … who is on the other team that, in a summer league, they took a team with our Preseason National Player of the Year to the buzzer?

(H/t: James Edwards III, Lansing State Journal)

Michigan State adds four-star Class of 2018 commitment from Marcus Bingham Jr.

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Michigan State stayed busy in the Class of 2018 this week as the Spartans landed a commitment from four-star forward Marcus Bingham Jr. on Friday afternoon.

The 6-foot-9 Bingham is regarded as the No. 104 overall prospect in the Rivals national Class of 2018 recruiting rankings as he gives Michigan State and head coach Tom Izzo four commitments for that class.

As noted by Brendan F. Quinn of MLive, the Spartans and Michigan have been going back-and-forth during a recent in-state recruiting arms race. Nine consecutive commitments between the two schools have all been Michigan products as both storied programs have done a great job of locking up local talent.

When you also consider that Izzo and Michigan head coach John Beilein have recruited plenty of out-of-state talent — some of them five-star, NBA-caliber players — it means that Michigan is producing a ton of talent among its prep ranks that could potentially benefit both programs.

Bingham, a native of Grand Rapids, averaged 8.2 points, 4.8 rebounds and 1.1 blocks per game while playing with Spiece Indy Heat this spring in the Nike EYBL. He joins four-star guard Foster Loyer, four-star big man Thomas Kithier and three-star guard Gabe Brown in Michigan State’s Class of 2018 recruiting haul.