Michigan State pushes past Huskers in Big Ten slugfest
Nebraska had the home crowd. It brought the required amount of fight. It returned to the high-level defensive team it was early in the season.
Michigan State had Cassius Winston.
The sublime Spartans guard was the best player on the floor Thursday night at Pinnacle Bank Arena, scoring 29 points and handing out six assists to lead No. 6 Michigan State to a 70-64 victory in front of a packed Pinnacle Bank Arena crowd of 15,246.
The loss ended Nebraska’s 20-game home winning streak. The last defeat came more than a calendar year ago, in December 2017, against No. 3 Kansas.
“We were paranoid of this game. They didn’t make shots tonight, and those things happen sometimes. Happened to us last year against Syracuse,” Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said after the game. “That’s (Nebraska) an NCAA Tournament team, and I just hope they keep on winning.”
Nebraska (13-5, 3-4 Big Ten) shot just 33 percent from the field and went 5-for-26 from three-point range, including 1-for-12 in the second half. The lack of offense undercut any hopes the Huskers had of pulling an upset.
“And usually, two-thirds of those are probably going in, at a minimum,” Nebraska coach Tim Miles said. “It’s just hard to overcome a night like that. And then you’re 5-for-26 from three. You can’t have both.”
The game marked just the second time this season NU has shot less than 40 percent from the field. The other came against Texas Tech.
Still, the game was tied at 44 with about seven minutes left and Nebraska having possession.
What followed was a brutal sequence for NU — multiple misses at the rim, a turnover, and a 7-0 Spartans run.
“I thought when we got down seven, we lost heart a little bit for a few possessions to allow it to go to 11 or 12. And you just can’t (do that),” Miles said. “Especially when time is of the essence. You’ve got to stay in there and stay with the plan.”
Nebraska got back within 51-48 after a pair of layups before the Spartans answered with a 9-0 run that included a dagger three from Winston to open up their largest lead of the game at 60-48 with 1:50 left.
Winston finished 9-of-15 from the field and scored or assisted 15 of Michigan State’s 24 field goals. At one point, the number was 13-of-18.
The rest of the Spartans combined to go 15-for-40 from the floor with seven assists. Nick Ward was the only other MSU player in double figures, finishing with 15 points and 10 rebounds.
“I think they did a lot of things to get us off balance to pay attention to their bigs, then he’d get off a screen or something like that,” Nebraska point guard Glynn Watson said. “He got going early, and I think that just got him in a rhythm to make easy shots.”
Michigan State led by 10 with 44 seconds left when the Huskers made one final surge.
A 7-1 Nebraska run cut the deficit to four with 23 seconds left. After a pair of Winston free throws, a Nana Akenten dunk made it 68-64 with 14 seconds to go.
But, the Spartans made nine of their last 10 free throws to hang on.
Michigan State (16-2, 7-0) won its 19th consecutive Big Ten game, setting a program record.
James Palmer had 24 points, eight rebounds and three assists for Nebraska, but was 6-of-21 from the field. The senior was 2-for-15 from the floor before making four of his final six shots.
Isaac Copeland added 13 points and five rebounds. Thomas Allen had nine points, while Watson finished with eight points and three rebounds.