Coming off of a huge win over in-state rival Michigan on Tuesday night, the Michigan State basketball team (21-4, 10-2) will make their way to Nebraska to take on the Cornhuskers (12-13, 3-9). Tip off is set for 8:00 PM Saturday night and will be televised on Big Ten Network. Sandwiched in between two huge games against both Michigan and Indiana, the Spartans will be looking to avoid a potential let down game in this one at all costs.
The game will serve as the second of two meetings on the season between Michigan State and Nebraska. The first of which occurred on January 13 in East Lansing where the Spartans came away with a victory, 66-56.
In that game, Michigan State did not play well at all as they struggled to put away a lesser opponent until very late. Nebraska really had every shot to win it as it was still a one point game, 55-54, with 2:16 to go. However, at that point Michigan State sophomore guard Gary Harris finally hit a shot on his 11th attempt, to put the Spartans up 58-54. After that, Michigan State hit some free throws down the stretch en route to that 66-56 victory.
Derrick Nix led the way for Michigan State with 17 points while a bit of controversy arose at the end of the game when Branden Dawson, who earlier in the game suffered an injury, came back in late in the second half. As Nebraska continued to play tight up on Michigan State, even down 8 with less than 10 seconds to go, Appling drove down the lane, lobbed the ball up where it was thrown down by Dawson for a huge alley oop at the buzzer. Some viewed this as bad sportsmanship but Nebraska head coach Tim Miles waived it off and said it’s all part of the game.
Nevertheless, as the two teams meet again on Saturday night, for Michigan State, they know that they are going to have to look a lot better in this one than they did a month ago. And for them to do this, the Spartans are going to once again have to bring that fluid offense as well as that tough, physical defense to the floor Saturday night.
In the last game, besides the the rough shooting night from Gary Harris, another thing that kept Nebraska in it was the fact that some unexpected players had a hot shooting night for the Cornhuskers. David Rivers is one to name. A player who usually only puts up 6 points a game, suddenly found himself wide open on several shots throughout the night and he had an outstanding game, finishing with 18 points on 8-8 shooting. Don’t expect for Rivers to have the same type of game this time around though. The Spartan defense will be ready for him.
Nevertheless, as Michigan State travels to Lincoln, Nebraska, they know they have one goal in mind and that’s to take care of business against the sub .500 Cornhuskers. They can’t afford a slip up late in the season like this when every game means so much in the Big Ten conference race. But as well as they’re playing as of late, it shouldn’t be a problem.
So after the Spartans get done with what they’re supposed to do Saturday night, they’ll need to get right back to work with another huge match up against Indiana on Tuesday. Needless to say, it’ll be just another week in the Big Ten.
Follow Ryan Squanda on twitter @squandarunner