Saturday, December 31, 2011

Spartans down Nebraska, extend winning streak to 13 games

After an ugly first half, the No. 16 MSU men's basketball team opened up a big lead in the second half and held on for a 68-55 win over the Cornhuskers in Lincoln.

The 13-game in-season winning streak is the longest since 1998-99 and will be put to the test against Wisconsin on Tuesday at the Kohl Center, a house of horrors for most opponents.

Draymond Green was the leading man for MSU (13-2, 2-0), with 19 points and eight rebounds and was 9-for-9 from the free-throw line. He wasn't perfect, though, with five turnovers and several bad-looking shots (he finished 4-for-11 from the field).

Th Spartans struggled with jump shots early, falling behind 12-4. But they began feeding the ball down low to find some baskets. MSU didn't lead the entire half and trailed 30-29 at the break. Adreian Payne picked up two early fouls and was in foul trouble most of the day, so Derrick Nix stepped up. Nix finished with eight points, seven rebounds and his second fast-break lead in as many games.

MSU stormed out to start the second half, going on a 20-4 run. Ten of the 20 points were scored by Green. But when it appeared the Spartans were about to pull away, Nebraska (8-5, 0-2) went on an 11-0 run to cut the lead to 53-50. It was the closest they would get the rest of the game.

Keith Appling and Austin Thornton both played well in the second half, and their free throws sealed the game in the end. Appling scored 14 on 5-of-10 shooting, with four assists and four turnovers against a very stingy and smart Nebraska defense. Thornton had nine points on 2-of-2 shooting and was 4-for-4 from the free-throw line. He also had three rebounds.

According to ESPN's box score, MSU dominated the rebounds 33-21. It seemed like they had more than the 13 turnovers in that box score. As I said before, the Cornhuskers play well on the defensive side of the ball, and the Spartans couldn't let up for a moment.

It was close at times, but any time you win on the road in the Big Ten, you're happy — especially in a building none of your players have been in before.

That's it for 2011. The year 2012 starts with MSU playing Tuesday in Madison, where the Iowa Hawkeyes just stunned everyone with a victory Saturday. I don't expect Wisconsin to shoot 3-for-28 from three, as they did against Iowa. Expect Wisconsin to bring its A-game. The Spartans will be in store for a battle.

Everyone have a Happy New Year.

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