PORTLAND, Ore. — Matt McQuaid first tweaked his ankle. Then he started to get a cramp in his left quadriceps, followed by a cramp in his right quadriceps.
In between stints on the bench to rest and get fluids, McQuaid helped No. 4 Michigan State make up for the absence of star Miles Bridges.
McQuaid hit six 3-pointers and scored a career-high 20 points, Jaren Jackson Jr. added 13 points and 10 rebounds, and Michigan State, playing without preseason All-American Miles Bridges, shook DePaul in the second half for a 73-51 win Thursday night in the opening round of the PK80 Invitational.
“My teammates are always giving me confidence and I got great screens and great passes that really helped,” McQuaid said. “They were going in and hopefully tomorrow I can keep it up.”
Bridges was out due to a sprained left ankle sustained last Sunday against Stony Brook, but McQuaid and others made up for the absence of the Spartans star. McQuaid’s previous career high was 17 points and he had scored 16 total points in Michigan State’s first three games this season in limited duty coming off the bench.
McQuaid said he was hesitant early in the season to look for his shot.
“As the games have gone on I’ve gotten a lot more confident. My teammates and coach are always on me about shooting it,” he said.
Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said Bridges was close to being able to play. He said if this was the NCAA Tournament Bridges would have played, but being that it’s early in the season the Spartans are trying to be cautious.
“I don’t think he was happy,” Izzo said. “It just didn’t feel right to me. … He’s got a better chance to go whether it be tomorrow or Sunday.”
Without Bridges, the Spartans (3-1) struggled to shake the Blue Demons until early in the second half when DePaul went more than nine minutes without a field goal.
Bridges was injured in the second half of the 93-71 victory over Stony Brook and never ditched his warmup attire on Thursday. With the Big Ten preseason player of the year on the bench, the Spartans were missing 19.7 points and seven rebounds per game. And the Blue Demons appeared energized by the absence of Bridges. DePaul led 26-20 after an 11-0 run in the first half and went to halftime tied at 31 after Eli Cain’s long 3-pointer beat the first-half buzzer.
But Michigan State’s defensive pressure increased in the second half and the Blue Demons wilted.
“The second half to hold them defensively like we did … I’m happy with the win because of the circumstances that we were under,” Izzo said.
Joshua Langford’s 3-pointer with 13:18 left gave the Spartans a 45-37 lead, matching their biggest advantage of the first half. Langford promptly picked up his fourth foul, but McQuaid came off a baseline screen and hit his fifth 3 of the game to push Michigan State’s cushion to 48-37 with 12:07 remaining. The lead reached 24 late in the game.
Cain and Max Strus led DePaul (1-3) with 12 points apiece but the Blue Demons shot just 5 of 23 in the second half and were 0 for 4 on 3-point attempts.
DePaul shot only 25.5 percent for the game.
“Our lack of execution meant that we didn’t score, particularly in the second half,” coach Dave Leitao said.
DePaul: The Blue Demons have opened with a difficult slate. DePaul’s season opener came against No. 13 Notre Dame and the Blue Demons lost at Illinois last Friday before heading West. … DePaul took the spot of Georgetown, which was originally part of the tournament field when it was announced last year.
Michigan State: While McQuaid rightfully got most of the attention stepping in for Bridges, the Spartans got a boost off the bench from Connor George. The sophomore had played four total minutes in two games, but played a career-high 16 minutes and had two points and seven rebounds.
DePaul: The Blue Demons will play Oregon on Friday night.
Michigan State: The Spartans face UConn on Friday night.