Lincoln, NE – In search of their 13th straight win, the 16th- ranked Michigan State Spartans play just their third true road of the season when they square off against new Big Ten Conference member Nebraska this afternoon at the Bob Devaney Sports Center in Lincoln.
Michigan State dropped its first two games of the season to ACC powers North Carolina and Duke, but has been perfect ever since. The Spartans opened conference play at home against previously undefeated Indiana on Wednesday night, and coach Tom Izzo's club played extremely well in knocking off the Hoosiers in an 80-65 final.
Nebraska is four games over .500 at the moment, and the team recently had a four-game win streak stopped in its first-ever Big Ten bout as it fell at home to No. 11 Wisconsin on Tuesday night, 64-40. The 40 points put up by the Cornhuskers was their lowest since 2007, but not all that surprising when you consider the Badgers lead the nation in scoring defense (44.4 ppg). Nebraska is 6-3 at home this season, and with having to play Wisconsin and Michigan State in consecutive games, it marks the first time since 2001-02 that the Huskers have opened league play against two straight ranked opponents.
Michigan State owns an 8-6 lead in the all-time series with Nebraska, but the Cornhuskers have won the last two meetings, the most recent of which took place in Lincoln back in 1994.
The Spartans are shooting 47.7 percent from the field and netting 77.1 ppg this season. They are +10.2 in rebounding margin and goad the opposition into 15.4 turnovers per outing. They yield just 59.8 ppg on typical shooting outputs 37.7 percent overall and 30.0 percent from three-point land. Draymond Green leads the way in scoring (15.1 ppg) and rebounds (9.6 rpg), while ranking second in assists (50). Keith Appling (12.1 ppg, 51 assists) and Brandon Wood (10.5 ppg, 19 treys) have produced at a high level as well, and it was Appling who was high man in the recent win over Indiana, netting 25 points, handing out seven assists and grabbing six rebounds. Derrick Nix came off the bench to score 14 points, while Brandon Wood chipped in 13 and Green finished with 11. MSU shot a sizzling 54.7 percent from the field and outscored Indiana at the free-throw line, 17-5.
Nebraska is hardly an explosive offensive team, as it is averaging just 64.6 ppg on typical shooting outputs of 43.9 percent overall and 34.6 percent from beyond the arc. The team features just two double-digit scorers in the form of Bo Spencer (15.1 ppg, 4.3 apg) and Jorge Brian Diaz (10.9 ppg, 4.9 rpg), although the latter has been nursing a foot injury and is listed as doubtful for this clash. That leaves guys like Toney McCray (9.8 ppg, 4.5 rpg), Caleb Walker (7.5 ppg, 4.5 rpg) and Brandon Ubel (7.2 ppg, 6.6 rpg) to try and pick up the slack. Defensively, the Huskers are allowing just 61.3 ppg, with foes hitting their field goals just 41.6 percent of the time, but their three-point tries at 37.7 percent. NU is +4.2 in rebounding margin, but -0.6 in turnovers. The offense was nowhere to be found in the recent loss to Wisconsin, as the team shot just 30.6 percent from the field, and knocked down only 3-of-13 three-point attempts. McCray was the only Husker to score in double figures, as he tallied 16 points and pulled down nine boards. One of the only positives coach Doc Sadler could take from his team's first foray into Big Ten play was that the Huskers committed only nine turnovers.