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Recap: Pair of scares


They say a win's a win, right?

MSU moved to 3-1 in the Big Ten with a 66-56 win over Nebraska in which the Spartans didn't pull away until the final minutes.

I don't really know what to think about this game. On one hand, a narrow home win over Nebraska that was close throughout is discouraging. On the other hand, the Spartans didn't play *that* bad. I mean, look at the four factors.

MSU held Nebraska to 39.7 percent shooting, while shooting 45.9 percent themselves. The turnovers were low, MSU didn't do great on the offensive boards, but Nebraska didn't either. Only four Nebraska players scored!

It was just that... Nebraska made a ton of tough shots, answering everything MSU did. The Spartans going 18-for-28 from the free-throw line didn't help their cause, either. The result was a game that just leaves you scratching your head.

Of course, the biggest news of the night was almost Branden Dawson, whose left knee buckled when he went up for a dunk attempt in the second half. Dawson tore the left ACL last year and many were worried it happened again when he went to the locker room. But Dawson jogged back out a few minutes later and came back into the game. The official diagnosis was a "twisted knee."

Dawson joins Travis Trice, Matt Costello, Adreian Payne and Gary Harris among Spartans whom we know have suffered injuries this year. With a seven-man rotation, injuries are even more troublesome.

MSU's offense this night was on the inside. Derrick Nix, Payne and Dawson combined for 43 points on 18-for-22 shooting, compared to Keith Appling, Gary Harris, Denzel Valentine and Travis Trice scoring 23 points on 4-for-26 shooting. It's great to see the inside scoring so prominent and efficient, but it can't be in place of atrocious scoring from the guards.

Whether or not Nebraska played out of its mind or MSU played down to its competition, the Spartans again had to play full-go for the entire 40 minutes, and players outside the top seven only say seven total minutes. For a team with a small rotation in the middle of a four-games-in-10-days stretch, this doesn't bode well for the next few weeks.

Still, they're 3-0 going into the last game of what had to be a four-game winning streak.

With that, here are the player bullets:

--Appling struggled to score again, finishing with eight points on 1-for-6 shooting. On the other hand, he had nine assists to three turnovers, along with two steals and two blocks. He also went 6-for-8 from the free-throw line. So, another mixed bag.

--Harris may have had his worst game as a Spartan. He finished 1-for-11 from the field, making his final shot (a three) to help MSU finally pull away at the end. He did, however, go 6-for-6 from the free-throw line. He certainly doesn't look anywhere close to 100 percent, missing a number of shots he normally makes. He didn't seem to attack the rim with as much strength as he normally does. He's dealing with injuries to both shoulders.

--Denzel Valentine only had one turnover, which was nice, but he also only had one assist in eight minutes. He did grab eight rebounds, but struggled at times, defensively.

--Derrick Nix was your player of the game, finishing with 17 points on 6-for-9 shooting and 5-for-5 from the free-throw line. He also grabbed five rebounds, including three on the offensive end.

--Adreian Payne continues to play with a lot of energy. He went 6-for-6 from the floor for 14 points. That included a number of jump shot and his first three-pointer of the season.

--Dawson finished with 12 points on 6-for-7, and even he made a couple of jump shots. He did go 0-for-4 from the free-throw line, though. That's gotta get better.

Next up: at Penn State