A night of career highs leads Spartans to victory over Nebraska


Luke Sloan, Assistant Sports Editor

EAST LANSING, Mich – It was a night of career highs at the Breslin Center, as new scoring marks from Kenny Goins, Matt McQuaid and Aaron Henry propelled Michigan State to a 91-76 victory over the Nebraska Cornhuskers Tuesday night.

The senior Goins led the way with 24 points, McQuaid was not far off at 22 poins while Henry added 15. All three players posted efficient numbers from the field, but the two seniors boosted their stats with a plethora of 3-point makes to stuff the stat sheet.

“Kenny (Goins) is a self-made guy,” Nebraska head coach Tim Miles said. “He went from a guy not in the scouting report to a guy that can go out and post a career high easily. That says a lot about the culture of Michigan State and the character of Kenny.”

Cassius Winston had an uncharacteristic scoring night, posting just eight points, but he was only two points shy of a double-double with 10 assists. Xavier Tillman was the only other Spartan of note in the scoring category, putting up 11 points. Michigan State’s 91 points scored were the most in a single contest since the Oakland game on Dec. 21, when 99 points fueled a victory.

Michigan State (24-6, 15-4 Big Ten) trailed 10-8 at the first media timeout following a poor shooting start, but a 19-4 run midway through the first half boosted the lead, which stood at 47-29 entering halftime. Goins scored 21 of his 24 points in the first half to lead the way, shooting 8-of-13 on the night and 6-of-9 from beyond the arc. The six 3-pointers made were also a career high for Goins, besting his mark of four in the previous Indiana game.

“If someone was going to tell me that Kenny Goins was going to be our leading scorer and Matt McQuaid was going to be second, and we were going to play four freshman, I would be surprised,” Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo said.

After a questionable effort during parts of their last game at Michigan, the Cornhuskers (15-15, 5-14 Big Ten) could have folded it in for a second game in a row, but they instead showed some pride, opening the second half on a 11-3 run to cut the lead to 11. Nebraska won the second half 47-44, but never cut the deficit down to less than seven points, eventually falling.

“I have to give credit to Tim (Miles) and his team, to be down that much and battle back in the second half and cut down the lead is impressive,” Izzo said.

Henry led the charge in the second half, scoring 10 of his 15 points to pace his team. The freshman shot 5-of-8 on the night and found his stroke after passing up key shots down the stretch in Bloomington last weekend.

“Coach (Izzo) needs a lot more from me because of injuries,” Henry said. “That’s why I have to step up and take more shots and be more confident on the court. I feel like the way I can do that is starting on defense. When I’m on, I’m on.”

The most efficient scoring line of the evening came from McQuaid, who scored his 22 points on 6-of-7 shooting, 4-of-5 from three and 6-of-6 from the free throw line. He bested his previous career high of 19 against Minnesota earlier this season.

“We really do, seniors are supposed to do this, they work all four years for this,” Izzo said when asked if his seniors need to step it up down the stretch.

Two of Nebraska’s top scorers, guards James Palmer and Glynn Watson Jr., did their part with 30 and 25 points respectively. This was not enough to temporarily halt the Cornhuskers’ slide in Big Ten play though, as the team fell to 5-14 in conference after achieving a program-high in conference wins with 13 last season.

Thomas Allen did not suit up for Nebraska, the sophomore was averaging 8.7 points per game entering the contest. Isaac Copeland was also absent once again, a member of the veteran core the Huskers returned from a 2017-18 season that saw the second-most wins in program history with 22.

One of the more exciting moments for the Spartans came after the game, when players and coaches gathered around a television in the locker room and watched the Purdue Boilermakers fall to Minnesota on the road. The loss set up a three-way tie for first place in the Big Ten between Michigan State, Purdue and Michigan.

The result was to the pleasure of the Spartans due to the fact that it set the stage for a showdown for a share of the Big Ten regular season title if Michigan State is to beat Michigan in this Saturday’s upcoming rivalry game.

“We’re still trying to take it one game at a time, and one goal at a time,” Goins said.

Part two of “The Big Game” will be broadcasted in the Lansing area on 88.9 FM, closing out the Spartans’ 2018-19 regular-season schedule.