EAST LANSING, Mich. -- A season full of potential and promise. Stars at every position.
And yet, when it comes down to Michigan State basketball, it begins with defense. Always has, and this season opener did in abundance.
The second-ranked Spartans opened the season with a stifling defensive performance and balanced scoring en route to 98-66 victory against North Florida Friday night at Breslin Center.
Miles Bridges and the rest of coach Tom Izzo's "super sophomores" -- Cassius Winston, Joshua Langford and Nick Ward -- all started and combined for 61 points, 17 rebounds and 11 assists.
Bridges led MSU with 20 points on 9 of 15 shooting. The 6-foot-7 swingman also grabbed 10 rebounds and didn't have a highlight reel dunk but notched a few slams in the second half.
With more big men around him, the 6-8 Ward opened the game by scoring around the rim almost at will. He finished with 16 points on 6 of 6 shooting.
Langford's polished game was on display from the start as well, including an early steal and dunk in transition and willingness to attack the basket in the halfcourt. The shooting guard finished with 11 of his 13 points in the opening half.
Winston had seven of his eight assists in the first half and opened up his shooting after the break. He finished with 12 points and two of MSU's three 3-pointers.
The Spartans made just 3 of 12 from the 3-point line.
Freshman Jaren Jackson Jr. joined the sophomores in the starting lineup and made an immediate defensive impact. The 6-11 rookie blocked four shots and grabbed 13 rebounds, showing a willingness to attack the basket and draw contact. Jackson finished with 13 points, going 9 for 10 at the free-throw line.
North Florida, which plays at Michigan on Saturday, went 8:55 without scoring as MSU ripped off a 19-0 run. Seven different Spartans scored, with Bridges getting just one bucket in that stretch.
The Spartans' defense held the Osprey to just 34.8 percent shooting for the game, including 29.4 percent in the opening half that included 12 straight North Florida misses between field goals.
MSU also used its new height advantage around the rim. Jackson and Bridges combined for six of the Spartans' nine blocks in the first half, and the team finished with 10 for the game.
The Osprey did most of their damage from deep, making 11 of 29 from 3-point range. Ivan Gandia-Rosa led them with 19 points, including five 3-pointers.
(c)2017 Detroit Free Press
Visit the Detroit Free Press at www.freep.com
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.