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Roundball Recap: MSU beats Bucknell in opening round

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Michigan State comes out firing in win over Bucknell to start NCAA Tournament.

Bucknell v Michigan State Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

March Madness doesn’t just mean crazy buzzer-beaters and huge upsets. Sometimes the games are just weird. There may be no better way to describe Michigan State’s 82-78 win over Bucknell in the NCAA Tournament round of 64.

The pace was crazy, things got chippy and Miles Bridges lost his mind in the absolute best way possible. In front of an extremely pro-Michigan State crowd in Detroit, the Spartans showed everyone why they easily could have been a one-seed.

But that didn’t come without MSU’s very special brand of sloppiness.

It’s cliché, but the game wasn’t as close as the final score. Michigan State absolute dominated for 17 minutes in the second half. Then with just a few minutes left, Bucknell started raining threes.

With three-minutes left, a Bridges three gave the Spartans a 16-point lead. The Bison then finished the game on a 19-7 run, 15 of which came from three-pointers.

Sure, it could be looked at as another game that the Spartans failed to close. But that wasn’t the vibe of the game. Bucknell was shooting for its life and hit shots they haven’t made all year. Sometimes that happens this time of year. It was a smooth ending.

That feeling was probably a result of...

Miles Bridges played out of his mind. For the last two years Spartans fans have been dying to see Bridges play like a “superstar,” whatever that means. Friday night, Bridges put all those concerns to bed.

The sophomore had 10 points at half, and was having a nice game. He added 19 points in the second half, leading the team in points and rebounds with nine. He was only 3-7 from deep, but the threes came at big moments and his defense set the tone for MSU.

But it wasn’t his stat-line that will have everyone talking tomorrow. One of Bridges’ three offensive rebounds nearly brought the house down, throwing down a put-back dunk.

If Bridges plays that way for another week, Michigan State may not lose another game.

Bridges’ big plays seemed to bring the best out of his teammates. Both Ward and Jackson struggled to stay on the floor, but when they were out there they seemed to feed off of Bridges’ energy.

Speaking of his teammates – hey, Joshua Langford, welcome back. Before Bridges took over in the second half, it was Langford leading the charge. The shooting guard put up 22-points, shooting 70% from the field and 7-8 from the free-throw line.

Compared to Bridges, Langford had a quiet night, but it can’t be understated how important it was to see him perform the way he did. It’s been said over and over again, but if Langford is scoring, MSU is nearly unbeatable.

Langford’s lone unfortunate moment of the night came in the second half when things started getting really chippy.

Maybe it was the insane pace of the game, or the extra pressure of the NCAA Tournament, but the refs were very involved in the game. The refs made one soft call after another, which may have added to the frustration as well.

First, Nick Ward took a tumble on a fast-break that left everyone in green a little nervous. Then Bucknell’s senior star Zach Thomas fouled out of the game after getting a technical foul for complaining that he didn’t draw a whistle. Jaren Jackson Jr. added joined in on the fun getting into it with a Bucknell guard. Langford was then given a technical of his own after Bridges was knocked to the ground and Bucknell players stood over him.

Things finally calmed down when Tom Izzo put Winston in a near headlock-hug during a timeout.

The Spartans will return to the floor Sunday, back in Detroit.