Play with fire and, eventually, you’ll get burned. After close calls against inferior opponents like Florida Gulf Coast, Oral Roberts and Tennessee Tech, Michigan State’s luck ran out in a 81-73 loss to Northeastern. The Spartans now sit at 7-5, are in desperate need of a healthy Miles Bridges and need to right the ship quickly with Big Ten season fast approaching.
We are officially at Bubblecon 3. Panic accordingly.
1. Missing Miles
What we said pre-game...
The Huskies are led by a pair of seniors, T.J. Williams and Alex Murphy, who carry most of the scoring load. Williams has scored at least 17 points in every game this season, and Murphy has only two single-digits scoring efforts. 6’10” sophomore Jeremy Miller also averages double digits, and is second on the team behind Murphy in rebounding average.
This could be the game where Miles Bridges’ absence comes back to haunt Tom Izzo’s team defensively. Not that is hasn’t already, but you get the point.
Murphy and Miller bring both size and shooting and must be accounted for on the perimeter. Normally, Bridges would be the perfect counter but without him MSU is left in a precarious position.
Lo and behold, those three torched the Spartans. Murphy finished with 18 points, 6 rebounds and shot 3-of-7 from deep. Williams scored 16 points, 9 rebounds and 4 steals, only Miller was held in relative check with 8 points.
Nick Ward did what he could defending the rim, blocking 6 shots, but not having Bridges’ combo of size and athleticism was a huge issue for MSU.
2. (Mostly) Barren Backcourt
Another ominous clip from the preview...
Offensively, scoring in the paint will remain challenging without Bridges. In lieu of his size, perimeter efficiency is critical. Harris, McQuaid and Josh Langford each have key roles to play.
Those three Spartans were anything but efficient, scoring a combined 17 points on 5-for-21 shooting, including 2-for-12 from 3. Simply put, this team will not win games when this happens.
3. Confident Cassius
We’ll end on a high note, perhaps the only one of the night, and that would be the freshman point guard, Cassius Winston. The U of D product registered his first of what will likely be many double-doubles, finishing with 21 points and 10 assists.
He looked like a man in control and the sooner he can resume throwing alley-oops to Bridges, the better.
MSU will try to get back on track Wednesday night against Oakland (7pm, BTN).