PARADISE ISLAND, Bahamas — Freshman Miles Bridges had 22 points and a season-high 15 rebounds to help No. 24 Michigan State pull away late from St. John’s for a 73-62 victory Wednesday night in the first round of the Battle 4 Atlantis.
Eron Harris added 14 points for the Spartans (3-2), who used a 17-4 burst midway through the second half to take control and build a 67-53 lead with about 2 1/2 minutes left.
In addition, Tum Tum Nairn Jr., a native of nearby Nassau, matched his career high of 13 points in his return to the Bahamas. And freshman forward Nick Ward provided some needed help for a thin front line with nine points and a season-high 11 rebounds to help the Spartans dominate the glass.
Marcus LoVett scored 20 points to lead the Red Storm (2-2), who shot around 31 percent and couldn’t answer Michigan State’s clinching push.
When LoVett was hitting (13 points after halftime), St. John’s was right with Michigan State. But the Red Storm, which will face VCU on Thursday in the loser’s bracket on Day 2 of the three-games-in-three-days event, struggled most of the game.
The performance of Bridges and Ward could be a welcome sign of hope for Michigan State’s frontcourt, which is down two big men because of knee injuries. The Spartans need more games like that from them, particularly on the boards, going forward.
The Spartans advanced to Thursday’s winner’s bracket semifinals to face No. 20 Baylor, which beat VCU earlier Wednesday.