Ward-led, Bridges-less Michigan St. beats Oral Roberts 80-76

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EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Nick Ward had a fantastic game offensively and on the boards, scoring a season-high 24 points and matching his best performance with 10 rebounds in an attempt to make up for the loss of Mile Bridges in Michigan State's 80-76 win over Oral Roberts on Saturday night.

At the other end of the court, though, the freshman forward may have given up more points and rebounds than he had himself in the box score.

"When he got real tired, he couldn't guard anyone in the post," Spartans coach Tom Izzo said.

The Spartans (5-4) played for the first time without Bridges, their leading scorer and rebounder, and missed him a lot. The standout freshman watched the game with a walking boot on his left foot, protecting a sprained ankle that will keep him out for at least a couple weeks.

"We can do this," said Ward, a reserve, who played a season-high 26 minutes. "We have a bright future, but we've had a lot of injuries up front."

The Golden Eagles (1-7) were very competitive in a game that included 13 lead changes and six ties. They led by as many as seven points in the first half and had some leads early in the second half.

Kris Martin pulled them within two points with 20.8 seconds left with a four-point play, but couldn't get closer because Michigan State made two more free throws to seal the victory.

"You don't win championships in December, but that might be the best we've played," Oral Roberts guard Jalen Bradley said. "We were OK against Baylor and Mississippi, too."


Michigan State freshman Cassius Winston, who came off the bench along with Ward, had a season-high 15 points and nine assists.

"I think Cassius Winston had his best game," Izzo said. "There's no other freshman that played very well."

Eron Harris scored 14, but Izzo wasn't happy with him or any of his wings.

Oral Roberts' Emmanuel Nzekwesi had 21 points and 13 rebounds, Bradley scored 17, Martin had 16 points and Albert Owens added 15 points and eight rebounds. They helped their team bounce back from a 92-64 loss in suburban Detroit.

"We've come a long way since Thursday night at Oakland," Golden Eagles coach Scott Sutton said. "We were embarrassed."


Oral Roberts: The banged-up Golden Eagles, missing two starters due to injury, seem to be much better than their record indicates. When they get healthy, Sutton will have a talented and tough team to work with this season.

Michigan State: Spartans coach Tom Izzo has wanted this team to get the ball inside more, and it has a good option inside with Ward without Bridges in the lineup. The 6-foot-8, 250-pound forward wants the ball in the post and he has skills to do something with it when teammates pass it to him.


Oral Roberts: Aaron Anderson, who hurt his knee in the third game, is close to returning. "He's probably a week away," Sutton said. Javan White, recovering from knee surgery, isn't expected back soon. "He's a ways away," Sutton said.

Michigan State: Two seniors in the post, Gavin Schilling and Ben Carter, have been out all season because of knee injuries. Schilling might make it back at some point in the Big Ten season, but Carter likely won't be cleared to play for the Spartans after transferring from UNLV.


Oral Roberts: At Oklahoma on Wednesday, in its third road game in less than a week.

Michigan State: Hosts Youngstown State on Tuesday, a game Izzo vowed him team would be ready for after challenging them during two or three practices on Sunday.

"If you think I'm depressed, I'm not," Izzo said. "I'm ticked off."


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