As the Spartans return to East Lansing, the No. 22 team took down the Nebraska Cornhuskers with a final score of 66-56. Michigan State basketball, with a record of 14-3 and a conference record of 3-1, defeated the unranked Nebraska (9-8, 0-4 Big10).
Michigan State returned to their home court after defeating Iowa in Iowa City, 62-59. The Spartans continued their undefeated home record tonight and recorded their 11th victory in East Lansing this season.
MSU’s Branden Dawson came out swinging as he hit the first shot of the game and went on to score 5 out 6 shots in the first half for a total of 10 points. Adreian Payne was next in the first half points, with 9 after he was subbed in just 4 minutes into the game. Though the Spartans came out with a bang in the first couple minutes, the Cornhuskers went on a 10-4 run to make a comeback within the first half. With Nebraska leading, Derrick Nix was fouled with 16 seconds left in the 1st half. He went on to make both shots, tying the game 32-32 at the half.
Sophomore David Rivers from Nebraska also showed an impressive game, leading scorers in the first half with 100% shooting percentage for 12 points and all 20 minutes of recorded playing time.
Just minutes into the second half, Adreian Payne rushed down the court with a flashy dunk. The crowd’s cheers faded when a technical foul was called on Payne for hanging on the rim. Yet, he snapped back and sunk a 3-pointer just moments later.
With 14:01 left in the game, Branden Dawson went down on the court holding his knee. He was helped off and into the locker room. Luckily, 3 minutes later, Dawson comes running back out to a roaring crowd and coach and is put back into the game. “I do gotta admit, I think my smile was bigger. I was scared to death,” MSU coach Tom Izzo stated about the injury. Dawson, himself, agrees about the experience, “I wanted to smile, it was a sign of relief,” he said thinking of the support he got coming back into the game.
A close game of 53-50 with MSU leading with 4:13 left was put into pressure when Andre Almeida, a Nebraska starter was fouled out of the game. This gave the Spartans an extra edge as freshman Gary Harris hit a key 3-pointer with 1:49 left in the game, making the score 58-54. This shot was Harris’ first field goal made out of his 11 attempts in the game. Nebraska’s mojo was quickly fading as another starter, Shavon Shields, was also fouled out with 46 seconds and a score of 60-54. Finally, with a dunk at the buzzer, a healthy Branden Dawson finalized the score at 65-55.
The game was much closer than the expected 18-point favorite for the Spartans. However, thanks to the 12-6 run from MSU in the final minutes, the 10-point game did not reflect the close struggle both teams went through.
Three Spartans recorded total points in the double digits; Derrick Nix at 17, Adreian Payne at 14, and Branden Dawson with 12. The 17 points marked a career best for Nix in a conference game. Those three also went 18 for 24 for shots while the team total was 22 for 48. Nebraska’s David Rivers topped everyone with 18 total points.
Though recording another win, Izzo did not seem pleased with the result. “They played harder than us, they coached better than us, they probably deserved to win the game in every way,” he stated. Both coaches were complementary to one another. Nebraska coach, Tim Miles said, “I have to give credit to Michigan State, they made winning plays,” and Izzo stated that he is “very respectful of what Nebraska did.”
Izzo and the Spartans pulled out another win, but Izzo says, “our guards aren’t gonna shoot this bad again. I really believe that,” as he and the team prepare for their upcoming game against Penn State on Wednesday, January 16 at 7:00 pm ET. The game will take place in Pennsylvania, as the Spartans hope to improve their currant 2-2 away record. The Michigan State season is looking up for a winning team whose coach believes “haven’t played near our best yet.”
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