Spartans blast Minnesota, off to best start in school history
Jaren Jackson managed to stay out of foul trouble for a change, and then he managed to almost single-handedly massacre Minnesota, Tuesday night at Williams Arena.
Jackson scored a career-high 27 points on 10-of-14 shooting, including 5-of-8 from 3-point range as the No. 2-ranked Spartans beat Minnesota, 87-57.
Michigan State improved to 25-3, the best 28-game start in school history.
“Yeah, that’s awesome," Tom Izzo said of the school record. "It’s one more thing that somebody can put a mark on. That’s going to be hard to break. It’s not easy to win 25 games (this soon) in a season. I’m proud of them for that. It’s great for each player to set some mark, a footprint at Michigan State, and this is one that is set.”
Jackson, MSU's 6-foot-11 freshman, led the way with an outstanding all-around game. He had six rebounds, three blocked shots, three assists and no turnovers.
“Jaren has always been in foul trouble but he got a lot better today,” Izzo said. “Jaren was great. He’s gone through such a tough period of time with all those fouls, but he looked so smooth. But give Miles Bridges credit. He threw him some great passes early. He was so unselfish.
“Jaren was hot and we went to him. We went to him in the post, we went to him off the post and we went to him at the 3-point line and he delivered.
“He had a couple of defensive lapses but he was probably a little tired. That’s the most minutes he has played in awhile. He stayed out of foul trouble and moved his feet. He did a good job.”
Michigan State shot 53.3 percent from the field including 14-of-22 from 3-point range. The Spartans are 12-2 in the Big Ten, one game behind first-place Ohio State.
Cassius Winston scored 12 points for Michigan State, all on three-pointers in the opening minutes of the game as the Spartans quickly built a double-digit lead and were never threatened. Michigan State shot 10-of-12 from 3-point range in the first half.
Winston was 4-of-4 on 3-pointers as MSU built a 30-12 lead.
“Cassius and Jaren got us off to the right start,” Izzo said. “Cassius has been playing better and better the last three weeks. He doesn’t get enough credit now for his defense. He is doing a hell of a job defensively, most of the time. We did a pretty good job taking care of the ball most of the time and Cassius was a big part of that.”
Minnesota, hurt by injuries and a suspension to team MVP candidate Reggie Lynch, fell to 14-14.
Nick Ward added 13 points for the Spartans after early problems with turnovers against double-team defense.
“We just needed Nick to slow down,” Izzo said.
The rim was unkind for Miles Bridges, the last-second hero of the Purdue victory on Saturday. The sophomore was 1-of-7 from the field for 5 points, with five rebounds and four assists.
Matt McQuaid continued to be a good option from deep, dialing up 9 points. He was 3-of-5 from 3-point range.
“It was a depleted (Minnesota) team we played, yet I’m going to give my guys credit,” Izzo said. “You come out with a No. 1 or 2 ranking, and you come out after a huge win over Purdue, that’s what you look for: Is the team growing up a little bit? Are they maturing?
“I thought our practices were great. I thought the walk-through today was great. So I think we’re making some progress. We have to keep moving the ball better. I thought we were stagnant at times on offense.”
Michigan State plays at Northwestern on Saturday at 2 p.m.