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Coming off the Michigan game and with No. 1 Indiana coming to Breslin on Tuesday, many thought this was a trap game.
Based on the number of comments in the thread, this game didn't stir up much excitement. But early in the second half, it looked like MSU was going to get trapped. But the Huskers stopped hitting tough shots, MSU held on to the ball and finished with a 73-64 win in Lincoln. MSU moves to 22-4, which ties the second-best 26-game start in school history. At 11-2, MSU is tied with Indiana atop the Big Ten, two games ahead of everyone else.
MSU jumped out to a double-digit lead midway through the first half, and it looked like the Spartans would cruise. But the turnover monster returned for the first time in a while (10 in the first half), and MSU scored six points in the final nine minutes of the half and led just 29-24 at halftime.
Remember that stretch where every team had a random player score a career-high? In the second half, Shavon Shields scored 19 points. He averages seven per game. He started out on fire, and the Huskers cut the MSU lead to 41-40 with 14:29 to play. But MSU started getting the ball back inside, and a 12-2 run gave them breathing room again. It didn't turn into a blowout, but MSU held a decent lead the rest of the way.
Dylan Talley led all scorers with 28 points on 8-for-16 shooting for Nebraska, including 4-for-9. He was a beast.
MSU shot 51.1 percent from the floor and went 4-for-13 from three, compared to 35.5 percent and 8-for-24 from 3 for Nebraska. The majority of those Nebraska shots were tough looks, too. Sometimes, shots just fall, and it kept the upset alive for a bit.
MSU crushed the Huskers on the glass with a 42-24 total edge, and MSU grabbed nearly half of its misses, compared to about one-quarter for Nebraska. MSU turned the ball over on more than a third of its first-half possessions, but had just three total in the second half. It's not a coincidence MSU's offense does better when it doesn't turn the ball over.
MSU got to the free-throw line at a great rate, too, going 23-for-29 for the game, and it wasn't just a factor of late fouling.
- Keith Appling was in this one from the beginning, getting fouled on a three-point shot to open the game. He didn't shoot well (3-for-11), but was aggressive, and went 9-for-10 from the free-throw line to finish with 16 points, passing the 1,000-point mark for his career. He had four assists to four turnovers, but Izzo thought he had a really good game, so I'll leave it there.
- Adreian Payne quietly had a really good game. He scored 15 on 4-for-8 shooting with 14 rebounds (five offensive) and three blocks. He had just two points at halftime and no field goals. His offensive rebounding was a welcome sight, as those second chances came in handy.
- Derrick Nix always seems to have a game once in a while where he misses a number of easy looks. That looked like the case Saturday night, as he also had just two points at the half. But he finished with 13 points on 4-for-9 shooting with 11 rebounds (three offensive). A pair of double-doubles from MSU's two big men will win you a lot of games.
- Gary Harris dealt with foul trouble in the first half, but was again hot from the outside, scoring 14 points on 5-for-6 shooting (2-for-3 from 3), but he seemed to drive to the hoop more than he had in some time. Izzo said before the game that Harris isn't 100 percent, but is getting quite healthy. It showed.
- Branden Dawson was missing for most of this game. Just four points on five attempts, four rebounds, numerous defensive lapses and three turnovers. He did have four blocks, though, and seemed to hurt his ankle in the second half, though he did stay in. Energy has been an issue through his two years, and there wasn't much tonight.
- Denzel Valentine continues to play very solid. He finished with seven points on 3-for-4 shooting, seven rebounds, two alley-oop assists (one to Matt Costello, one to Payne) and one turnover. Exactly what MSU needed when Trice went out. (And it looks like Trice will miss the Indiana game).
Give Denzel Valentine a lot of credit again tonight. 7 morerebounds this evening, now has 22 rebounds last 3 games (7.3 avg)— Adam Ruff (@Spartan_Radio) February 17, 2013
Valentine is 14-for-24 (58.3%) from the field in the last 5 games after a 3-of-4 effort tonight, finishing with 7 points and 7 rebounds— Adam Ruff (@Spartan_Radio) February 17, 2013
- Matt Costello got eight minutes and continued to look more comfortable. Four points, making both shot attempts, two rebounds, two blocks.
Izzo wasn't all too happy about the game, but they got the win, so we move forward.
Izzo said he feared this game all week. "This team is not mature enough, as I've learned this week."— Joe Rexrode (@joerexrode) February 17, 2013
Izzo: "We didn't play very well, it was a workman-like game. Some of it I understand, some of it I don't"— Adam Ruff (@Spartan_Radio) February 17, 2013
So that is in the rear-view, and we can turn the attention to Tuesday's monster game. They're asking for another white out, so wash that shirt you wore last week. (Or don't if you believe in jinxes).
The winner of Tuesday's game will have a one-game lead in the Big Ten with four games to play, and both have pretty difficult slates the rest of the way. It won't determine the Big Ten, but it will go a long way in the final results. Not only that, but the 17-game home winning streak against Indiana is on the line. That dates back to 1991.
Magic Johnson will be joining Dickie V as a color commentator, so that should be cool. I'll leave you with some more tweets about Tuesday.
Izzo on upcoming game with Indiana: "We're gonna have to up the intensity this Tuesday, from last Tuesday."— Adam Ruff (@Spartan_Radio) February 17, 2013
Nix on the Indiana game: "It's gonna be a bloodbath." That worked for him when he said it before U-M game.— Joe Rexrode (@joerexrode) February 17, 2013