HUSKER MEN’S BASKETBALL: Hot Start For Nebraska Cools Off Against No. 10 Michigan State

EAST LANSING, Mich.–(NU Athletics Jan. 5)–Four Huskers scored in double figures Wednesday night at Michigan State, and Nebraska tied its season high with 12 steals, but NU struggled with its shot in the second half in a 79-67 road loss to the 10th-ranked Spartans.

Nebraska trailed by just four at halftime and it was still a two-possession game with seven minutes remaining before Michigan State pulled away with a 12-2 run. The Huskers hung in until the end despite shooting just 41 percent from the field in the second half. NU shot 45.0 percent in the game, but Michigan State knocked down 51.8 percent of its shots.

The Spartans improved to 11-2 with the win and remained unbeaten in Big Ten play by moving to 4-0. Nebraska fell to 6-9 overall and 0-4 in conference action.

Derrick Walker tied his career high with 16 points and was 8-of-9 from the field. Bryce McGowens finished with 13 points, while Kobe Webster (13) and C.J. Wilcher (10) combined for 23 points off the bench. Alonzo Verge Jr. added five points, five assists, four rebounds and two steals.

Nebraska’s defense forced Michigan State into 19 turnovers. Eight different Huskers had at least one steal to contribute to Nebraska’s season-high-tying 12 takeaways. The Huskers outscored the Spartans in the paint (34-28), points off turnovers (20-16) and fast-break points (19-14) and bench points were even at 27 apiece, but Michigan State’s strong shooting was the difference. When they did miss, the Spartans pulled down 11 offensive rebounds, outscoring Nebraska 16-7 in second-chance points.

Max Christie led the Spartans with a career-high 21 points, going 7-of-9 from the field including 3-of-4 from beyond the arc. Three other Spartans joined Christie in double figures.

The Huskers started hot, hitting their first seven shots – from four different players – to lead 17-12 five minutes into the game. Nebraska then missed its next five shots and Michigan State took advantage with an 8-0 run to grab a three-point lead.

Nebraska regained the lead on a basket from Eduardo Andre, and the Huskers led 24-22 with nine minutes left in the half following a Webster 3-pointer. The Spartans then came back to build a five-point advantage after Nebraska missed five of its next six shots. But the Huskers answered with a 6-0 run in just over a minute to lead 32-31 with 2:59 remaining in the half. Nebraska would make just one basket the rest of the half, as Michigan State was able to take a 38-34 lead into the locker room.

The Husker defense recorded eight steals and forced a dozen Michigan State turnovers in the first half. But when they were able to get shots, the Spartans shot 55 percent from the field, going 17-of-31 from the field, while Nebraska was 15-of-31 (48.4 percent). The Huskers outscored the Spartans by two in the paint but Michigan State had a 10-2 advantage in second-chance points.

Walker led Nebraska with 10 first-half points on 5-of-6 shooting. McGowens added nine points, while Verge and Webster had five points apiece in the opening 20 minutes.

Walker scored on the opening possession of the second half and a Lat Mayen 3-pointer two minutes later trimmed the Michigan State lead to 41-39. The Spartans then hit back-to-back 3-pointers just 28 seconds apart to take a 47-39 lead four minutes into the second half, the first time either team had led by more than five points.

Following a Nebraska timeout, Wilcher drained a 3-pointer but Nebraska made just one basket over the next five minutes as Michigan State stretched its lead to 10. The Spartans still led by double digits with nine minutes left before five straight Husker points cut the lead to 60-54 with 6:54 remaining.

But Michigan State answered back, holding the Huskers scoreless for more than four minutes during a 12-2 run that put them on top 72-56 with two minutes left. Nebraska then scored five points in 16 and cut the lead to 10 twice in the final minute, but that was as close as the Huskers would get.

Nebraska remains on the road for its next game, as the Huskers travel to New Jersey to take on Rutgers Saturday at 1 p.m. The game will be televised on the Big Ten Network.