PISCATAWAY, N.J. (AP) - After blowing out its last six opponents, including highly regarded North Carolina and Notre Dame, No. 3 Michigan State was due for one of those off nights.
It almost cost them against Rutgers.
Miles Bridges scored 21 points and the Spartans (8-1, 2-0 Big Ten) overcame their worst offensive performance of the season with a 62-52 victory over the surprising Scarlet Knights (6-3, 0-2) on Tuesday night.
"I don't know how to say this to anybody, but we're not perfect," Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said. "We're not as good as you guys write. We're a good basketball team that has a chance to be a great one."
Against Rutgers, the Spartans had 15 turnovers, gave up 20 offensive rebounds and they played like a team that was starting four sophomores and a freshman, Jaren Jackson Jr. who scored all 11 of his points in the second half and had eight of the Spartans' season-high 13 blocks. Joshua Langford added 15 points on 6-of-20 shooting from the field.
"Don't let it eat you alive," Izzo added. "Don't let it frustrate you and don't read into things. We have a long way to go."
Rutgers made Michigan State work for this one, holding the Spartans to season lows in points and shooting percentage (38.6). The previous low was 63 points and 40 percent shooting against North Carolina.
What Michigan State did well was play defense. It came into the game with the nation's best field goal defense (34.2) and it held the Scarlet Knights to 25.8 percent shooting from the field (17 of 66).
"They missed some shots, but boy you can build a lot on a good defense," Izzo said. "You know it can rescue you a lot of times. Pick a pro sport. Pick a different sport, from good pitching to good goaltending to good defense like the Warriors. We textbook their offense. It doesn't change. Championships are won by good defense 99 percent of the time."
Deshawn Freeman had 13 points and Geo Baker and Eugene Omoruyi added 11 apiece for Rutgers, which lost its third straight.
"I hate to lose and I think everyone here came here to beat teams like that," Baker said. "We were really close. Like Coach (Steve Pikiell) said, there's a bunch of little things that if we can improve, we can win that game."