EAST LANSING – It took 5 seconds for Miles Bridges to bring the Breslin Center crowd to its feet with a high-flying dunk.
The Michigan State star sophomore took a hard fall a few minutes later and suffered a bloody face, placing a dead silence over the crowd.
Bridges left the game with 7:29 left in the first half of the exhibition opener Thursday night. The second-ranked Spartans trailed Division II Ferris State at halftime.
But Bridges returned with a bandage over his right eye in the second half, and the Spartans survived the twofold scare by pulling away from the Bulldogs for an 80-72 victory.
Bridges finished with 19 points and six rebounds, but it was fellow sophomore Cassius Winston who helped recuse MSU from a preseason upset. Winston scored 21 of his game-high 26 points in the second half as the Spartans didn’t build a double-digit lead until his three-pointer with 2:59 to play.
Freshman forward Jaren Jackson Jr. debuted with a 14-point, eight-rebound, eight-block performance.
Starting guard Joshua Langford went 0-for-12 from the floor and missed all five of his three-pointers, finishing with two points. The Spartans shot 34.7% for the game, making just 7 of 27 three-pointers.
Even before the injury scare, MSU looked lackluster with its opening-night starting lineup of Bridges, Winston, Langford, Kenny Goins and Nick Ward. The Spartans trailed by as many as 10 in the game and were down at halftime before seizing the lead – but not full control – in the second half against the scrappy Bulldogs.
Bridges led the Spartans with eight points on 2-for-5 shooting in the first 10 minutes before his fall. He soared to block a shot near the three-point arc in front of the MSU bench and toppled over the Bulldog who took the shot. The right side of his head was bleeding, and MSU’s medical staff rushed to his assistance with a towel.
The preseason national player of the year by a number of publications and the Big Ten’s preseason player of the year was able to flip over and apply pressure with the towel above his right eye. He walked to the locker room with team doctors, holding the white cloth to the wound with his right hand, and waved to the fans with his left hand as he exited through the tunnel.
MSU struggled mightily on offense in the opening half, going 2-for-16 from three-point range and shot just 28.9% from the floor. Ferris State raced out to a 12-2 lead in the opening 4 minutes, but the Spartans pulled out to a seven-point lead when Bridges got injured. The Bulldogs rallied with a 21-11 finish to take a 38-35 lead to halftime.
MSU will face Georgia in a charity game at 2 p.m. Sunday at Van Andel Arena in Grand Rapids, the Spartans’ second of three exhibitions before opening the regular season at home against North Florida on Nov. 10.
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