FINAL: No. 10 Spartans survive turnover storm, defeat Nebraska 79-67


MSU senior Gabe Brown gives a menacing look in Spartans’ victory over Nebraska // Photo: MSU Athletic Communications

Trent Balley, Sports Editor

EAST LANSING – The No. 10 Michigan State Spartans welcomed the Nebraska Cornhuskers into snowy East Lansing Wednesday looking to remain perfect in the Big Ten. Conversely, the Huskers were looking for their first win in the conference. Ultimately, it was the Spartans taking care of business for a 79-67 victory. They move to 13-2 on the season (4-0 in the Big Ten) while the Huskers fall to 6-9 (0-4).

The undeniable main story of the game? Turnovers. This isn’t particularly surprising, given the fact that the Spartans were averaging 14.1 turnovers per game entering the contest. Nearly five minutes into the game, the Huskers were a perfect 7-for-7 from the floor, while the Spartans had already committed five turnovers.

“Tonight, they made some shots early, and they made some shots early because we turned it over at will,” MSU coach Tom Izzo said.

Luckily for MSU, some Nebraska turnovers fueled an 8-0 scoring run as the Spartans took back a 20-17 lead. 

Nonetheless, the first half was a sloppy affair from both teams in terms of ball security. The two squads combined for 20 turnovers at the break and 34 for the full game. At one point in the first half, the Spartans had turned the ball over 11 times in 21 possessions.

“We’re going to have to figure it out and do a better job, because at some point, it’s going to get us.” Izzo said of the turnover issue.

With just over seven minutes until halftime, Marcus Bingham Jr. got the home crowd roaring with a posterizing, two-handed slam after a Nebraska turnover. Lat Mayen was the victim, as the Spartans took a five-point lead.

The last few minutes of the half belonged to Spartan senior captain Gabe Brown. After a Derrick Walker layup gave the Huskers a 32-31 lead with just under three minutes until the break, Brown nailed a 3-pointer at the end of the shot clock to put the Spartans back ahead. A minute later, he took advantage of yet another Husker turnover with a slam in transition. On the other end, he blocked a Bryce McGowens dunk attempt from behind. Brown’s overall effort in the game sure put a smile on his coach’s face.

“I thought that was Gabe’s best game in a Spartan uniform, when you look at everything,” Izzo said.

The ugly, back-and-forth half ended with the Spartans leading 38-34. Derrick Walker’s 10 points led the Huskers, while Brown’s 10 led the Spartans. McGowens and Christie added to their teams’ scoring efforts with nine points each, too.

Tyson Walker hit a pair of 3-pointers to open the second half for the Spartans, and Christie connected on one as well to give the Spartans a 47-39 lead four minutes in. C.J. Wilcher had the answer for Nebraska, knocking down a three of his own as the Huskers simply refused to go away.

Brown slammed home an alley-oop from Walker to give the Spartans their first double-digit lead of the game, 56-46 with 11:02 remaining.

Kobe Webster cut the Spartan lead to six points with just under seven minutes to play, but the ever-so-steady Malik Hall (5-for-6 from the field) answered with a mid-range jumper to put the Spartans back up by eight. On the next Spartan possession, Hall hit a 3-pointer from the top of the arc, and the Spartans got their hands on another double-digit lead that they would ride to the final buzzer.

Leading the Spartans to victory was Christie with a career-high 21 points on 7-of-9 shots. Brown added 14 points with four steals and two blocks, while Hall and Tyson Walker had 12 and 10 points, respectively.

Derrick Walker led the Huskers with 16 points, with McGowens and Webster adding 13 each. They will continue to look for their first conference win on Saturday as they travel to take on the Rutgers Scarlet Knights. 

Meanwhile, the Spartans travel to Ann Arbor for a rivalry matchup with the unranked Michigan Wolverines on Saturday. Follow @WDBMSports on Twitter for all of your game coverage.

You can follow Trent Balley on Twitter at @TrentBalley.