Michigan State overcame a plethora of turnovers to beat Nebraska, 79-67, at the Breslin Center to improve to 4-0 in Big Ten play.
The tone and the pace were set in the first four minutes, as both teams pushed the tempo, scored quickly and turned the ball over often on their way to a 12-12 tie.
Michigan State's turnover problems were on full display in the first half, as the Spartans had 11 giveaways in their first 21 possessions. Michigan State only had one more turnover for the remainder of the half, and while they certainly drove Tom Izzo crazy, the giveaways didn't prevent the Spartans from taking a 38-34 lead into halftime.
Michigan State maintained control through the second half, slowly adding to their lead. The Spartans outscored Nebraska 41-33 in the second frame to put away the Cornhuskers.
1. Super freshmen collide
This game featured a matchup of perhaps the two best freshman in the Big Ten in Michigan State's Max Christie and Nebraska's Bryce McGowens. Tonight at the Breslin, it was Christie who got the better of the matchup. The Spartan freshman finished with a career-high 21 points on 7-of-9 shooting, including 3 three-point baskets on 4 attempts. Christie added 4 rebounds, an assists and a steal.
McGowens, meanwhile, scored 13 points but was limited to a 5-of-16 shooting effort due to a solid defensive effort from Christie and others. The Husker freshman added 4 rebounds, 4 assists and 2 steals.
Unfortunately, this was the only scheduled matchup between Michigan State and Nebraska, so we won't be able to see these two players square off again unless they meet in the Big Ten Tournament.
2. Turnover issues remain in East Lansing
We mentioned the turnovers above, and if you've followed this team over the past couple seasons you know it's a re-occurring issue. About all that's left to say about it is that the Spartans are an undisciplined basketball team. You can turn the ball over 19 times and beat teams like Nebraska, but Michigan State will be hard-pressed to win the Big Ten Championship if they don't get this problem better under control.
AJ Hoggard was the biggest culprit in terms of undisciplined play today. The sophomore had 7 turnovers in a stat line that included 6 points, 2 rebounds, 3 assists, a steal and two blocks.
The Spartans are too good of a team on the defensive end to continually put themselves in bad positions because of the giveaways at the offensive end. Michigan State had shown some improvement in this area the last couple games, but the turnovers reared their ugly head again tonight.
3. Gabe Brown is an All-Big Ten player
The senior has been the most consistent player for the Spartans this season. Brown is bringing it night in and night out and playing like an All-Big Ten basketball player. On Wednesday, the senior scored 14 points on 6-of-15 shooting, and added four rebounds, four steals, two blocks and an assist. Following the game, Izzo said he thought this was the best defensive effort that he's gotten from Brown in his Michigan State career.
4. Malik Hall, Tyson Walker provide scoring punch
Walker and Hall provided nice scoring support tonight for the Spartans. Hall had 12 points on an efficient 5-of-6 shooting, while adding 6 rebounds, 2 assists, a steal and a block. Walker, meanwhile, pitched in with 10 points and connected on 2-of-3 of his three-point attempts. The point guard added 5 assists and 2 steals for Michigan State. We've said it often this season but it continues to ring true -- the Spartans have multiple contributors up and down their roster, and that depth has been a huge asset for Michigan State in the first half of the season.
5. Bring on Michigan!
Michigan State is now 13-2 on the season and off to a 4-0 start in Big Ten play. Up next, the Spartans travel to Ann Arbor for a matchup with a struggling Michigan team. The Wolverines are just 7-6 on the season and 1-2 in conference play. You can be sure that Michigan will be looking to jump start their season with a home upset of the Spartans, but we're confident in Michigan State heading into this one. The Wolverines haven't shot the ball well this season, and have been very poor at defending the three-point line this season. We're looking forward to adding another chapter to this storied rivalry.