No. 10 Michigan State will look to stretch its winning streak to eight games when it hosts Nebraska on Wednesday.
The Spartans’ last victory wasn’t easy. They were down 13 points to Northwestern on Sunday and the game was tied at 57 before they rattled off eight consecutive points.
“We did not play our best basketball,” coach Tom Izzo said. “It was not something that will go down in Michigan State lore as far as a game, that first half. But the second half I did think we competed more.”
Gabe Brown scored 15 of his 20 points after the break, including a clutch 3-pointer in the final minute. The 73-67 win allowed Michigan State (12-2, 3-0 Big Ten) to preserve its No. 10 ranking.
“Gabe likes to take the big shots,” Izzo said. “He likes to take any shot. But I really do appreciate that about him, that he’s not afraid of the moment.”
After shooting 33.3 percent from the floor in the first half and making just 1 of 10 3-point attempts, MSU shot 44 percent in the second half and made 6 of 13 3-point attempts.
Izzo lamented the fact that 49 fouls were called and the teams combined for 63 free throws.
“That was not a fun game,” Izzo said. “It felt like there was a foul every minute.”
Michigan State faces archrival Michigan on Saturday, which could turn Wednesday’s matchup into a trap game.
“We want to make sure that we’re winning our home games with Nebraska coming up,” freshman Max Christie said. “Then a big one against Michigan — that’s our archrival, our arch-nemesis. So we’re looking forward to that game, but we’re not looking past Nebraska at all.”
Christie went for 11 points and seven rebounds against Northwestern, including making 2 of 4 3-pointers. His defense, along with an eye-catching dunk, got his teammates excited.
“I know I can score the ball and everybody knows I can shoot the ball,” Christie told reporters. “So sometimes, even though I didn’t necessarily shoot terrible — 2-for-4 isn’t that bad — I still can impact the game in multiple other different ways like defense, energy, rebounding, like I did tonight. So that’s one of my goals.”
The Cornhuskers (6-8, 0-3) nearly won their first conference game on Sunday. They took then-No. 13 Ohio State into overtime before succumbing 87-79.
Nebraska led by five in the final minute of regulation but two missed free throws by Lat Mayen helped the Buckeyes force the extra session.
“We aren’t about moral victories and it still is an extremely disappointing locker room but that shows what we are capable of,” coach Fred Hoiberg said.
“If we play that type of physicality every night we step on the floor in this league, we are going to have a chance. The effort was there and we are a much different team than we were a few weeks ago, and again, (there were) a lot of things we can build on in this one.”
–Field Level Media