First-half blitz lifts Michigan State past Huskers
It took Nebraska 10 minutes and 47 seconds to fall behind Michigan State by double digits Tuesday night.
And that was still longer than it took in the Huskers’ two previous road games.
Nebraska trailed by 18 at halftime before eventually losing 91-76 at the Breslin Center in East Lansing, Michigan. The Huskers surrendered a 19-2 run in about 4½ minutes of game time midway through the first half. It all looked plenty familiar.
But while the final score didn’t show it, Nebraska’s effort was miles better than in its previous road blowouts at Michigan and Penn State.
In a season during which positives have become harder and harder to come by, that was at least something.
“We told our guys that this kind of fight will help you win the game against Iowa. This kind of fight will help you win in the Big Ten,” Nebraska coach Tim Miles said on the Husker Sports Radio Network. “Anything less won’t. But this is the kind of fight we need going forward.”
That 19-2 run midway through the first half turned a one-point Nebraska lead into a 16-point deficit. By the time the halftime horn sounded, Michigan State’s Kenny Goins had already set new career highs with 21 points and five three-pointers.
But after falling behind by 20 less than a minute into the second half, NU rallied to get within seven and missed a free throw that would have made it a two-possession game with more than 11 minutes left.
It was a nine-point Michigan State lead with 10:35 left when Nebraska’s Nana Akenten was called for a Flagrant 1 hook-and-hold foul. The Spartans made the two free throws, then Matt McQuaid hit a three-pointer three seconds later to extend the lead back to 14, and Nebraska got no closer than 11 the rest of the way.
The Huskers lost by 15 points while missing 10 free throws and giving up five points on one possession.
“We’re just short on numbers right now, unfortunately,” Miles said. “We got 55 out of the two seniors (James Palmer and Glynn Watson), and we just didn’t get enough out of everybody else.”
Palmer matched his season high with 30 points for Nebraska (15-15, 5-14 Big Ten), going 11-for-24 from the field. It was the first time this season Palmer made double-digit field goals in a game.
Watson scored a season-high 25 points for the second time in three games, going 9-of-17 from the field and hitting five three-pointers while passing Venson Hamilton into 12th on Nebraska’s career points list. With his four assists, Watson moved past Jamar Johnson into eighth for career assists.
“Our two senior guards certainly played like senior guards tonight,” Miles said. “This isn’t lost on Glynn. He wants to go out a winner, he wants to go out more positive than this. And he fought his butt off tonight. I’m proud of him, and James was much better tonight, too.”
Isaiah Roby added 10 points, nine rebounds, five assists and two blocked shots for NU.
Michigan State (24-6, 15-4), down three starters of its own, saw two players set career highs for points. Goins scored 21 of his 24 points in the first half, while McQuaid scored 22 on 6-for-7 shooting. Cassius Winston finished with eight points and 10 assists.