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Friendly Fire: Josh Jackson and Miles Bridges enjoy matchup against each other

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Michigan State guard Miles Bridges (22) puts up a three over Kansas guard Josh Jackson (11) during the first half on Sunday, March 19, 2017 at BOK Center in Tulsa, Okla.

Michigan State guard Miles Bridges (22) puts up a three over Kansas guard Josh Jackson (11) during the first half on Sunday, March 19, 2017 at BOK Center in Tulsa, Okla. by Nick Krug

Tulsa, Okla. — Matched up against each other for the majority of Sunday’s second-round game at BOK Center, Josh Jackson and Miles Bridges enjoyed the opportunity to play each other on college basketball’s biggest stage.

Kansas freshman Jackson had the upper hand over one of his good friends, scoring a game-high 23 points on 9-of-16 shooting in KU’s 90-70 win against Michigan State to advance to the Sweet 16. He added three rebounds and two blocks in 36 minutes.

Bridges led the Spartans with 22 points and eight rebounds on 7-of-15 shooting in 34 minutes. He briefly went to the locker room in the first half with a hip pointer.

The sight of Jackson and Bridges dominating in a game was nothing new to MSU coach Tom Izzo, who noted he saw it plenty while recruiting both of them.

“I give all the credit in the world to Josh. I thought he's improved his jump shot a lot,” Izzo said. “And he does play hard, but I look at the stats and I look at the game and I think about the injury and the time he missed, I'm really, really proud of Miles. And you know what, I'm proud of Josh.”


Jackson scored 14 points in the second half and put the finishing touches on KU’s victory with a right-handed slam down the lane in the final minutes for a 15-point lead.

Before facing Bridges and childhood friend Cassius Winston (seven points, eight assists), Jackson said Kansas coaches told him not to be too amped up when the game started.

“I came out and was still just a little too excited. I tried to force stuff a little bit,” Jackson said. “But as the game went on, I felt like the game started slowing down, it came to me a little bit more. And I just had to realize it was just another game, and it was about Kansas basketball versus Michigan State, and it wasn't about me versus Miles.”

In his first — and likely only — NCAA Tournament, Jackson is averaging 20 points and five rebounds on 17-of-28 shooting (61 percent).

Both Jackson and Bridges, potential lottery picks in the upcoming NBA draft, played with and against each other since the sixth grade in AAU games. Jackson grew up in Detroit, Bridges in Flint, Mich.

“I knew it was going to be a fun game before it even started,” Jackson said. “So it was just really fun to be able to go out there and play against those guys and really proud to see them here and having success.”

Bridges, the Big Ten’s Freshman of the Year, opened the game with a 3-pointer over Jackson and backed up some of his trash-talking with strong play in the post.

“It's always good playing against Josh,” Bridges said. “It gets a little physical at times. We compete every time we play against each other. He's a great player. He's going to have huge success in the league, so it's always good playing against him.”

For fans, it was an opportunity to see an NBA preview, where both players could have big roles for the next decade.

But Sunday, the main focus for each player was just trying to find a way to win and keep his season alive.

“Two great players going at it,” Izzo said. “The stats were somewhat the same, but I think Josh has really played well. He's really come on."

Comments

Jim Stauffer 1 week, 2 days ago

I love the play of Josh Jackson. I think he is the best one and done ever at KU. But I cannot see him all that far ahead of Bridges in the draft. I have not heard much about Bridges leaving early, but then our media naturally does not cover him much. Seems to me he is a first rounder for sure.

Steve Zimmerman 1 week, 2 days ago

Dr. JJ, as some call him, is a true McD-AA. Freshman of the year. As good as advertised. He's a different beast than Wiggins, but with more fire/competitiveness. His shooting has improved, yes, we're lucky enough to see how fast he progresses. He's got everything any NBA team would love to have in a top pick. Dr. JJ is one of my favorite KU player of all time! Now, go and get that NC trophy for us!!

Eliott Reeder 1 week, 1 day ago

If I were an NBA GM looking at draft options, JJ's improvement throughout the season would be one of his biggest selling points. He has gotten better and better and is obviously committed to working on his game. He is far from a finished product. Wiggins didn't really improve that much over the course of his year at KU, though he did improve quite a bit over the first 3/4 of his rookie year in the NBA.

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