(97.1 The Ticket) Miles Bridges wasn’t kidding when he said he planned to elevate his game in the NCAA Tournament.
The sophomore led all players with 29 points and nine rebounds in Michigan State’s first-round win over Bucknell Friday night.
His performance was punctuated by a stunning put-back dunk midway through the second half. After Nick Ward missed long on a hook shot, Bridges stormed to the hoop, flew into the air and flushed the ball home over Bucknell’s All-League center to put Michigan State up by 10.
Little Caesars Arena erupted, and the Spartans rolled the rest of the way.
Count Angels center fielder Mike Trout among those who were impressed.
Asked what was going through his head at the time, Bridges said, “Nick tends to miss long, so I was thinking I got to get this one because I had just missed a dunk. It was an instinct thing.”
Bridges agreed it provided a spark for the Spartans.
“Yeah, I feel like that’s what got us going defensively, rebounding and got our offense going,” he said.
Bridges was typically efficient, hitting 12 of 22 shots. More importantly to Michigan State, he was aggressive when he put the ball on the floor. It was the kind of crunch-time response Tom Izzo wanted to see out of Bridges after the superstar was relatively quiet in the first half.
“I got on him at halftime. But, boy, we started running some stuff from him and he started answering the bell, one after the other, and the tip dunk kind of typified it,” Izzo said.
Bucknell head coach Nathan Davis said Bridges was even more impressive in-person than he was on film.
“I think the thing that you don’t quite see as much on film is how high he gets when he shoots the pull-ups,” said Davis. “I thought we were there to contest a lot. Just because of how athletic and big he is, he’s able to get up and get a clean look anyway.
“He’s very strong. You don’t see as much of his strength when you’re watching film until you see him in-person, but he’s a really, really good player.”