By: Will Burchfield

Tom Izzo was walking to the bus with Miles Bridges after Michigan State’s win over Oakland on Saturday when he looked up at his sophomore superstar, who had been held to 11 points, and asked if he was alright.

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“We gotta get you going a little more,” Izzo said. “You okay?”

“Of course,” Bridges responded. “We won.”

Izzo appreciated Bridges’ team-first attitude, as any coach would. But he wanted to impart upon the 19-year-old that — in the big picture — winning isn’t always all that matters.

“I was trying to give him a little bit of an out, that there are things that are almost as important, and he just wouldn’t go there,” Izzo told 97.1 The Ticket. “He is as good as you get.”

It’s been an underwhelming season thus far for Bridges, even as No. 2 Michigan State has lived up to its potential. He hasn’t blown the doors off college basketball as many suspected he would when he announced his decision to return for an encore in East Lansing.

Of course, Bridges is Michigan State’s leading scorer (16.7 points per game) and his numbers are almost identical to those of last year. That’s the bane of expectations. He’s also playing through an ankle injury he suffered in November, which limited his ability to practice early on.

“He said he didn’t have the spring in his legs, and that’s a big part of the game,” Izzo said.

On top of all that, Bridges doesn’t play with an eye toward his statistics. He could pour in 30 points a night if he really wanted to, and surely his draft stock would benefit, but the Spartans are better off when all of their talent is allowed to shine.

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Sometimes, that dims the glow of their best player.

“Last year we had one, sometimes two guys, in double figures. This year we have five, so that makes a huge difference,” Izzo said. “And I’d say the difference with him is, I knew he was unselfish last year, but he’s almost ridiculously unselfish.

“So for Christmas I’m going to get him a selfish pill, because I need him a little more selfish.”

Take Monday night, for example. Bridges scored 33 points in Michigan State’s win over Houston Baptist while barely breaking a sweat. He went 11-14 from the field, 4-7 from three and 7-7 from the line. He also chipped in six rebounds and five assists.

“It was almost a quiet 33,” Izzo said.

Bridges would prefer to point out that Michigan State won by 45. Whatever the vantage point, it’s clear that Bridges and the Spartans are just getting started.

“People are saying he’s not having as good of a year,” said Izzo. “Number one, he’s injured a little bit. Number two, he’s averaging right now the same amount of points and assists he did last year.

“He’s improved his defense, he’s improved his ball handling, he’s taking it to the hole better. He might not average 25 points a game because of the type of team he’s on, but he’s fine with that.”

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Izzo chuckled and added, “And I’m semi-fine with that.”