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Michigan State Spartans overcome first half turnovers, defeat Nebraska Cornhuskers 79-67

NCAA Basketball: Nebraska at Michigan State Dale Young-USA TODAY Sports

The Michigan State Spartans stay perfect in the Big Ten Conference despite ball security issues, defeating the Nebraska Cornhuskers by a final score of 79-67. The Spartans move to 13-2 on the season and 4-0 in the Big Ten, while the Huskers fall to 6-9 overall and 0-4 in the Big Ten. Nebraska did win the turnover battle, though. MSU coughed up the ball 19 times to the Huskers’ 15.

In the battle of five-star freshman guards, Max Christie for the Spartans and Bryce McGowens for Nebraska, Christie reigned supreme, scoring a team-high (and career-high) 21 points. Christie went three-of-four from three point range and was a perfect four-of-four from the free-throw line.

Michigan State could not get out of its own way in the first half. The Spartans committed 10 turnovers not even 10 minutes into the half. It didn’t help that Nebraska started out lightning hot, making all seven of its opening shot attempts. The Cornhuskers also finished the first half with eight steals and 12 points off of turnovers. The game was back and forth as a result, with 10 lead changes and ending up tied four different times.

Neither team could pull away by more than five points before the other would respond. When MSU went down by five points, though, at the 15:05 mark when Alonzo Verge Jr. hit the extra point on an and-one play, the Spartans did manage to answer with an 8-0 run. That was the most explosive scoring run of the half. The two teams would finish with 20 total turnovers on the half, and MSU led 38-34 after the first 20 minutes of play.

Michigan State turned things around on offense to start the second half. The Spartans pushed the lead up to eight points just under four minutes into the half on a three-pointer by Christie, leading 47-39. Nebraska managed to cut it within five points on the corresponding possession off a three-pointer by C.J. Wilcher. The Huskers hung around in that general score neighborhood for a few minutes of game action, but could never cut the deficit any lower before Michigan State pulled away again. Michigan State finally managed to break into a double-digit lead off Gabe Brown’s dunk (off of the lob from Tyson Walker) with 11:26 left.

The Spartans finished the game out strong, holding off any attempt by the Huskers to bring the game back within striking distance as the clock wound down. However, despite cutting it to just six points on a fast break layup by Kobe Webster to trail 60-54 with 6:54 left, Nebraska quickly fell behind by double-figures again for all but another 0:17 seconds of game action. The Huskers went cold from there, only managing another seven points over the final 5:43.

Michigan State has a lot of game tape to go over ahead of the Michigan game on Saturday. UNL managed to score 20 points off of turnovers and 19 points on the fast break, and stole the ball 12 times. The Huskers shot just 30.4 percent from deep, but some of that was more due to poor shot selection, and the fact that Nebraska is a bad shooting team from three-point range, than MSU’s defense.

Overall, three players for Nebraska finished the game in double-digits, led by Derrick Walkers 16 points. Michigan State won the rebound battle 40-27, though.

Three other Spartans finished the game in double-figures in addition to Christie. Brown had a big night with 14 points, Malik Hall finished with 12 points and Tyson Walker finished the game with 10 points. Walker and Christie led the team with five assists apiece, while Joey Hauser led the team on the boards with eight rebounds. A.J. Hoggard and Brown both notched two blocks apiece.

Michigan State is back in action this Saturday, Jan. 8 in Ann Arbor to take on the Michigan Wolverines. The game will tip at 2:30 p.m. EST and will be broadcast on FOX.