Miles Bridges scored 21 points to lead four players in double-figures and Tum Tum Nairn chipped in with 12 assists as No. 24 Michigan State picked up their best win of the season over Wichita State, 77-72.
The Shockers are in something of a rebuilding mode right now, as Gregg Marshall works through how he’s going to replace the duo of Ron Baker and Fred VanVleet, but they are still a good, well-coached basketball team.
And the Spartans had this game firmly in had for a good 35 minutes.
A late first-half run – that came when Bridges was on the bench in foul trouble – gave the Spartans a 10-point halftime lead which they pushed to as much as 15 in the second half. But the Shockers made their run, cutting the lead to a single point. If it wasn’t for a couple of hasty jumpers from the Shockers on their last two possessions, Wichita State just might have completed the comeback.
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There are a ways to look at this. On the one hand, it certainly isn’t a good sign that the Spartans blew a big lead, regardless of the opponent. Michigan State committed turnovers, missed open looks and, for the most part, looked like a young team that got nervous trying to close out a win.
But they didn’t give the game away.
They made just enough plays to win the game. Miles Bridges hit a couple of massive jumpers. Cassius Winston hit a critical free throw. Tum Tum had a pair of assists late that helped clinch the win.
Learning how to win, how to close out close games, is a process. It’s a skill. It’s something that freshmen typically have to develop at this level, and if anything, this win feels like a step in that direction.
Whatever the case may be, the Spartans are leaving the Bahamas with a third-place finish, two wins in three games and a record over .500 as they get ready to pay a visit to Duke next week.
It could be much, much worse.
For the Shockers, this was not a great trip. They leave the Bahamas at just 1-2 overall with losses to both Louisville and Michigan State, and for a team from the Missouri Valley with only two more potential quality wins left on their schedule – Oklahoma and Oklahoma State – this puts the Shockers somewhat behind the eight-ball when it comes to getting an at-large bid.