PISCATAWAY, N.J. – Tom Izzo wanted to say earlier this week that he wanted to see his Michigan State team handle a bit of success, as he entered his second Big Ten game riding one of his most impressive streaks in decades.
In their first real game of the season, the Spartans played their worst game of the season and needed to get away in the last five minutes to avoid a massive discomfort against a Big Ten mat.
No. 3 Michigan State resisted Rutgers, 62-52, on Tuesday night at Rutgers Athletic Center to mark their seventh consecutive victory.
Michigan State (8-1, 2-0) shot 13 percentage points more than Rutgers for the game, but could not shake the Scarlet Knights for 35 minutes because their billing problems returned and they were weak on the boards, particularly on the offensive end.
Rutgers tied the Spartans in the rebounding battle, 45-45, including 20-1
The Spartans also obtained almost nothing offensively from two of their best players: Cassius Winston and Nick Ward, who combined for nine points in limited minutes.
Rutgers (6-3, 0-2) stayed in a basket until less than six minutes were left, before Michigan State had an 8-2 run and retained the Scarlet Knights without a goal from field for more than five minutes to seal the winner.
Freshman Jaren Jackson Jr., no goals for more than 27 minutes to start the game, had a personal four-point career, with a running layup and two free throws with 4:28 left.
Winston gave his first shot of the game a minute later, a triple to put Michigan State up by seven. Rutgers was never closer than that.
Second-year forward Miles Bridges led Michigan State with 21 points, scoring his best offensive game since he suffered a sprained ankle two weeks ago despite a performance of 7 of his 17 shots. Joshua Langford added 15 points and Jackson had 11, all in the second half.
Jackson also recorded eight blocks, tying the record for a single school game held by Ken Davis.
Michigan State entered the game after winning six consecutive games by an average of more than 20 points, marking the first time in more than three decades the program had achieved that feat.
The Michigan State team that took the field here in New Jersey on Tuesday night looked little like that squad.
At halftime tied at 26, marking the first half of the season with the lowest score in the State of Michigan. For 20 minutes, the state of Michigan was overtaken by Rutgers. He turned the ball around nine times in the first half.
Michigan State had an 11-point run in the first half to take a seven-point lead, 21-14, with 7:11 to play. Bridges scored the last eight of those points with a pair of triples. Rutgers called timeout after Bridges' second triple, and then showed he was not intimidated by a No. 3 team scoring run in the country. The Scarlet Knight had a career of 9-2, and behind an energized crowd remained close for another 14 minutes before Michigan State finally withdrew.
Michigan State made almost all of its second half without Ward. The second player played only one minute in the second half and 11 for the game. He did not seem hurt.