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MSU 74 - Nebraska 56 - Game Summary and Analysis

Spartans start 2023 strong

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

Happy New Year TOC Nation.

Let’s get this new year started with some Big Ten basketball.

First Half

MSU got off to a strong start. Tyson Walker hit a triple after another jump ball win by Mady Sissoko. And on Sparty’s first defensive effort, Mady got a block. I’m thinking it is going to be a blowout at this point, but on our second possession, Hauser committed a turnover, which easily could have been called a foul. From here it was pretty steady for a few minutes, and MSU lead 7-6 at the first TV timeout.

Coming back from the commercial, Walker got it going again with a little luck, getting the runner to drop in off the high glass among two defenders. On our next trip down the floor, we got to see the freshman Jaxon Kohler hit a long jumper. But on the other end, he got lost trying to provide some help and left his man open for a three from the top of the key. And then, he got caught moving his feet. Nebraska took advantage of the turnover to score and tie the game. Kohler redeemed himself on the next one, hitting a pretty turn-around jump shot on the base line, with a knee up for style points. It felt like the team was looking to get him involved. Jaden Akins hit a triple to go into the under-12, and MSU led 16-11.

MSU had a blown defensive rotation which gave the Huskers an easy layup. Pierre Brooks responded with another MSU 3, and then the defense put a lid on the Nebraska basket. Walker hit 2 jumpers from nearly the same spot on the next two possessions, bringing the lead to double digits, and then he hit his 2nd triple on the next trip, giving him 14 and getting the Spartans to double up the Huskers at 26-13. This led to a Nebraska timeout. The visitors came out with a good scheme, running a backdoor play for a wide-open layup, and it was 26-15 at the under-8.

The next segment started with a quiet couple of minutes. Hauser ended that with his first triple, and then Mady scored after putting an offensive rebound back up. Right before the next break, Tre Holloman had a beautiful steal and started racing to the basket. His layup was contested, but Hauser was there for the follow. MSU led 33-17 at the final TV timeout of the first half.

It was time for Tre Holloman to get in the scoring column, working hard to keep his dribble going through a slip-and-fall, and then getting a bucket down low. Akins scored next and the lead was 20. Walker would hit one more, but then Izzo’s plan from the use-it-or-lose-it did not get executed very well. One more stop at the other end, actually two if you include a missed put-back bunny, and MSU kept Nebraska from scoring in the last 4 minutes, good for a 39-17 lead at the intermission.

Second Half

MSU started the second half with a defensive stop. On our first offensive possession, Mady got fouled down low. I thought it was a shooting foul, but the ref had other ideas. But this had me thinking. I flipped over to the box score and, yeah, MSU had no FTs in the 1st half. More on that later. MSU did not score after the foul, and it seemed like the lid was now on our basket for the first few possessions, and Nebraska got the first second half points. Then there were 3 consecutive turnovers, with the two teams just giving it back to one another. Trading turnovers switched to trading buckets, and the lead was down to 46-27 at the under-16.

We had some more trading baskets after the commercial, until an MSU possession that featured 2 offensive rebounds and 3 FG attempts, but no points. Later, Pierre Brooks got back-to-back scores, a 2 and then a 3, but the defense was not looking as good, and in the first 8 minutes of the 2nd half, Nebraska already had scored more points than they did in the first. MSU led 53-35.

Feeling a little confidence perhaps, Nebraska came out aggressive in this segment and really started drawing fouls, and even &1 opportunities, but their free-throw shooting was (insert synonym for very, very bad here). Just like in the first half, Kohler had a period where he was the focal point, first scoring on a put back (where he was fouled, but he missed the FT), and then on a nice little low post move to get him to double-digits for the first time in his Spartan career. Nebraska had the lead down to 14, at 60-46 as they went to the under-8 timeout.

The next-to-last segment started with a couple of ugly, scoreless minutes. Malik Hall finally got his first points of the game to end the scoring drought, and then got an &1 on the next possession off a nice feed down low from Walker. Next time down, Walker hit a corner 3 off some beautiful ball movement around the perimeter. On Nebraska's next possession, Mady picked up his 4th foul as he gave up an offensive rebound. That led to a whistle and the final TV timeout, with the Spartans up comfortably, 68-46. It was the second time in the game where Nebraska was held scoreless between breaks.

The final 4 minutes went as you would expect. Mady fouled out. The benches began to clear. Walker scored one more basket. Cooper, Smith, Whitens, Sanders, and Lil’ Izzo were in there for the final 90 seconds. Nebraska also had their version of the coach’s son in, and theirs even scored a point, splitting a pair at the line. On two offensive possessions, Lil’ Izzo was definitely looking for his shot. He missed both outside jumpers, the first one actually looking pretty good, but on the second trip, he managed to chase down a long rebound and was immediately plowed into, earning his own trip to the line. Guys, I was positive this was it. He was going to score. He had to. Right? RIGHT? Wrong. It was a horrible looking free throw that even drew laughs from his sister, Raquel, who was sitting in the front row. And that is how the game would end. MSU walks away with a 74-56 win to get to 2-1 in conference play.


3 Things I Liked:

  1. Pace. It was very obvious from the beginning that MSU’s strategy was to push the ball, make Nebraska have to run with us, and get points in transition. While this is nothing new for an Izzo-coached team, I mention this first because Nebraska this year has been having success slowing teams down. So we came out and let them know we were going to try to take them off their game.
  2. Statistical domination. We outrebounded them 46-29, including 14-8 on the offensive side. Mady had 5 on each end. We also led in the assists column, with 24 on 31 FGs (77%) to their 10 on 23 (43%). Joey also had 10 boards, and just about everyone who played recorded at least one stat cleaning up a brick. As usual, AJ Hoggard led the squad in assists, dishing out nine to nearly equal the Huskers single-handedly.
  3. Walker and Akins looking for their shots. These two led the team in FGAs with 15 and 12, respectively. I am not mad at Akins FG%; I want to see him continue to be aggressive. We can only believe that more of those will fall. Walker, on the other hand, shot 60% overall and 50% from deep. If these two continue to look for their shots, with their ability to make a first defender miss and draw help, it will also lead to easy looks for their teammates.

3 Things I Did Not Like:

  1. Not a lot of FTs. We ended this game 4-6 from the line, after not shooting a single one in the first half. Throughout the game, they kept showing the points-in-the-paint stat, and it was largely skewed in Nebraska’s favor. Well, Mady only had 2 FGAs. Hauser and Kohler were shooting jumpers mostly. And Hall was not being as aggressive as he was in his first game back. I would like to see more of an inside game. Maybe this was by design for this opponent. Not sure. But Nebraska certainly does not have a dominant low-post defender, not compared to several other B1G teams. Are we going to avoid going inside against those teams too? I feel like today would have been a good opportunity to feed Mady in the paint and let him work on his scoring.
  2. For the most part, this was a great performance by the Spartans so I kind of have to reach for my 3 dislikes. Here’s one. Earlier this evening, I read the news that Keon Coleman is walking away from the basketball team to focus on his football career. I respect the decision and can’t wait to see him putting up big numbers as MSU’s #1 WR next season. But I will miss his presence on this team in those appearances he did get.
  3. Again, I really had to look for things here, so allow me to be ridiculous for a moment. I don’t like the coordinated dress of the coaches. Izzo was even in on it today, but I have noticed for a few games now that all the assistants are always wearing the same shirt. Not sure if I have noticed that in the past, or if that is a thing in college hoops, but I don’t like it. It reminds me of a mother who dresses all her sons in the same clothes. No offense if any of your mothers did that, but I always found that odd when I would see that. Let’s let the coaches wear what they want.

Up Next:

Yep, it’s hate week. We play um on Saturday at 2:30 in East Lansing. Start gathering all your “F-@% Michigan”s (I’m not allowed to swear in the articles) ready and use them gratuitously in the next 5 days.