Miles Bridges, Nick Ward lead Michigan State past Penn State in Big Ten Tournament opener

Posted at 5:05 PM, Mar 09, 2017
and last updated 2017-03-09 17:07:21-05
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Miles Bridges and Nick Ward had 15 points and nine rebounds apiece, and Michigan State rolled into the quarterfinals of the Big Ten Tournament by breezing past weary Penn State 78-51 Thursday.
The fifth-seeded Spartans (19-13) will next face No. 4 seed Minnesota on Friday. Michigan State, the defending Big Ten champion, is seeking its fourth title in the last six years.
After closing the regular season with losses at Illinois and Maryland, the Spartans found their groove against a Penn State team playing for the second time in less than 24 hours.
The 13th-seeded Nittany Lions (15-18) fell behind for good with less than four minutes elapsed, trailed by 18 at halftime and sputtered to the finish after taking out Nebraska in overtime on Wednesday.
Tony Carr and Lamar Stevens each scored 16 points for Penn State, but they combined to miss 23 shots.
Penn State shot 29 percent and was outrebounded 44-29.
Michigan State opened the season with back-to-back defeats, endured a three-game skid in January and finished an uncharacteristic 10-8 in conference play. Yet, the Spartans always seem to be at their best at this time of year.
After avenging an earlier loss to Penn State, the Spartans are now 28-14 in the Big Ten Tournament and 101-45 all-time in March under coach Tom Izzo.
It didn't take long for Michigan State to gain control against a team that one day earlier snapped a five-game losing streak.
The Nittany Lions led 5-3 before Ward made three layups and a jumper in the lane during a 13-1 run during which Penn State went five minutes without a point.
It was 18-13 before a dunk by Bridges and a 3-pointer by Joshua Langford launched a 12-0 spurt that put the Spartans up by 17.
Penn State closed to 36-27 before Bridges and Goins scored on tip-ins, Ahrens popped a 3 and Bridges soared high on a dunk for a 45-27 lead at the half.
   Penn State: The Nittany Lions celebrated on Wednesday night, and they also had wins over Michigan State, Maryland and Minnesota during the regular season. But their lack of consistency left them 6-12 in conference play and with virtually no chance of getting far in the tournament.
   Michigan State: The Spartans save their best play for last. So what if they lost two straight coming into the tournament? No team in can match their five Big Ten titles, and there's no reason to think they can't make it six.
   Penn State: Season likely over.
   Michigan State: The Spartans went 2-0 against Minnesota, winning in overtime on the road before registering a 65-47 victory on Jan. 11.