The fact Big Ten Preseason Player of the Year Miles Bridges slammed his head on the court in the first half or that the Spartans, ranked No. 2 in the preseason coaches' poll, found itself in a nail-biter with Division II Ferris State.
It all worked out for Michigan State. Bridges, who got a cut over his right eye from the first-half fall, returned after halftime and Michigan State pulled away late for the 80-72 exhibition victory.
Bridges scored 19 for the Spartans, but it was sophomore guard Cassius Winston that sparked a second-half surge as he scored 21 of his 26 points in the second half. Winston was 8-for-13 from the field, including 4-for-6 from 3-point range. Freshman Jaren Jackson had 14 points, eight rebounds and eight blocks in his Michigan State debut.
D'Angelo Hughes scored 14 to lead Ferris State, which won a program-record 28 games last season and has captured three straight GLIAC championships. Noah King and Drew Cushingberry added 13 each for the Bulldogs while Zach Hankins had 12 points.
The play that had the Spartans worried with about 7:30 to play in the opening half. Ferris State's Jaylin McFadden took a pass on the wing, pump-faked the 3-pointer as Bridges soared through the air. McFadden made the fake then dribbled to his right and clipped Bridges' legs, sending him crashing to the ground.
The training staff quickly was at Bridges' side and put a towel to the right side of his head as the Breslin Center grew quiet. After a few minutes, Bridges stood up and walked to the locker room, holding the towel and waving to the crowd.
It was all part of a first half that was hardly what Michigan State was expecting as it fell behind Ferris State 12-2, missing seven of its first eight shots, the only make a dunk by Bridges off the opening tip. The Spartans settled in and pulled even, eventually taking their first lead when Jackson put back a miss from Joshua Langford. They pushed that lead to 24-17 midway through the first half, but that's when things started going the wrong direction again, right around the time Bridges was knocked out of the game.
Hughes hit a 3-pointer for the Bulldogs after play resumed and Ferris State outscored Michigan State, 21-11, to close the half and take a 38-35 lead into the locker room.
Michigan State retook the lead at 42-40 on a pair of Langford free throws then went up 46-43 after a steal and dunk in transition from Bridges. But a steal and layup by Ferris State's Hughes followed by a Hughes triple put the Bulldogs back in front.
That's when Winston got rolling, scoring the next nine points for Michigan State as the Spartans took a 55-50 lead. Ferris State, however, tied the game at 60 on a layup from DeShaun Thrower with 7:04 to play as Michigan State couldn't pull away.
Matt McQuaid answered with a 3-pointer followed by a Winston layup. Two free throws from Bridges put the Spartans ahead, 67-61, but after a McQuaid miss the Bulldogs scored in transition to trim the margin to 67-63.
The Spartans extended the lead to 78-65 with two minutes to play, effectively putting the game away.