Well, it certainly wasn’t as easy as was expected or as pretty but at the end of the day, the 8th ranked Michigan State Spartans found a way to win over Nebraska, 73-64.
Early on in Saturday night’s grudge match Michigan State’s offense was clicking much like it has in the past few games, as they jumped out to a 23-12 lead with 9:13 to go in the first half. However, after that Michigan State went on a scoring drought that lasted nearly five minutes and allowed Nebraska to climb back into the game and cut the lead to four.
Michigan State finally broke the scoring drought off a Matt Costello alley oop assisted by Denzel Valentine with 4:28 to go. From that point on, the rest of the half was ugly to watch as the two teams played their way to a 29-24 Michigan State lead at halftime. The Spartans looked as bad as they have in a long time in the first half against Nebraska, turning the ball over a total of ten times.
In the second half, Nebraska continued to hang around and made things interesting for a long time as both Shavon Shields and Dylan Talley did everything they could to keep the Cornhuskers in the game. Nebraska did manage to cut the lead to one, 41-40 with 14:29 to go but it was as close as they would be all night.
After Nebraska cut the lead to one, Michigan State would lock down defensively and use a 20-6 run over the next 10+ minutes to pull ahead 61-46 with just over three minutes to go in the game. And as much as I would like to tell you that the game was over at this point, I’m sorry but it just wasn’t. The pesky Cornhuskers continued to just claw their way back into the game and extend it, cutting the Spartan lead to as little as seven with 45 seconds to go.
However, in what seemed like possibly the longest three minutes of basketball ever, Michigan State hit their free throws down the stretch and eventually closed out the game, 73-64.
Michigan State dominated on the inside of this game, winning the rebound battle 41-23 and also amassing 12 total blocks against the Cornhuskers. Led by junior Adreian Payne (15 points, 14 rebounds, 3 blocks), the Spartans had four players finish in double digit scoring. Senior Derrick Nix (13 points, 11 rebounds), freshman Gary Harris (14 points) and junior Keith Appling (16) were the others.
Nebraska was led by senior Dylan Talley and freshman Shavon Shields, who finished with 28 and 19 points respectably. The duo carried the load for the hometown Cornhuskers, combining to score 49 of the team’s 64 points but it wasn’t enough to upset the highly ranked Spartans. It didn’t help the Nebraska cause either that their second leading scorer, Ray Gallegos had an absolutely brutal game, finishing the game with 1 point on 0-13 shooting, including 0-10 from behind the arc.
At the end of the day though, no matter how ugly it may have been, you can chalk it up as another win for the Spartans. Up next for the Michigan State basketball team (22-4, 11-2), they will have a huge game against Indiana (22-3, 11-2) on Tuesday. First place in the Big Ten will be on the line as the game will serve as a rematch game that took place on January 27. In that game, Indiana won a tightly contested match up 75-70 at Assembly Hall. Michigan State will be looking to take the second meeting of the season between the two as well as first place in the conference race. Tip off for the monumental match up will be at 7:00 PM in the Breslin Center.
Follow Ryan Squanda on twitter @squandarunner