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Nebraska (12-14) at (6) Michigan State (23-5)
Saturday, February 25th, 8:00 p.m. (et)
The Sports Network
By Frank Haynes, Senior College Basketball Editor
FACTS & STATS: Site: Breslin Center (14,797) -- East Lansing, Michigan. Television: Big Ten Network. Home Record: Nebraska 9-7, Michigan St. 16-0. Away Record: Nebraska 3-7, Michigan St. 7-3. Neutral Record: Nebraska 0-0, Michigan St. 0-2. Conference Record: Nebraska 4-11, Michigan St. 12-3. Series Record: Michigan State leads, 9-6.
GAME NOTES: Hoping to avoid a late hiccup as they stare down a possible Big Ten Conference regular-season championship, the sixth-ranked Michigan State Spartans play host to the Nebraska Cornhuskers tonight at the Breslin Center in East Lansing.
Nebraska's first run through the Big Ten hasn't yielded much in the way of joy, as the team is 4-11 against its new conference brethren, and sports a 12-14 overall record. The Cornhuskers have lost five of their last six games, the most recent of which being an 83-65 shellacking at Purdue on Wednesday, and they are just 3-7 in true road games heading into this affair.
Michigan State is a stellar 23-5 on the year, and the team's 12-3 league ledger has it in first place in the Big Ten with only three games to play. The Spartans, who have won all 16 home tilts this season, are riding a six-game win streak, their last two coming on the road -- at Purdue (76-62) and at Minnesota (66-61).
Michigan State owns a 9-6 series advantage over Nebraska, which includes a 68-55 triumph over the Huskers in Lincoln earlier this season. In that clash, the Spartans needed to fight back from an early deficit to earn the victory in the first meeting between the two teams since 1994.
With a scoring output of only 61.9 ppg, it's certainly not surprising that Nebraska has only two players currently averaging double digits, as Bo Spencer (15.6 ppg, 3.5 apg) and Toney McCray (10.0 ppg, 4.7 rpg) figure to command most of MSU's attention tonight. The Huskers have been able to compete thanks to a defensive effort that allows just 64.8 ppg. Spencer was the only player to reach double figures in the recent loss at Purdue, hitting for 19 points while handing out five assists. Nebraska shot 51.9 percent from the field, hitting 8-of-19 three-point attempts along the way, but the Boilermakers nailed 13 treys and were 54.5 percent accurate from the floor overall, while also claiming a 30-22 rebounding advantage and committing only seven turnovers.
Michigan State too boasts only two double-digit scorers in the form of Draymond Green (15.5 ppg, 10.3 rpg, 3.8 apg) and Keith Appling (12.0 ppg, 3.9 apg), but the team is a bit more balanced as four others average at least 7.0 ppg. Collectively, the Spartans are putting up 72.9 ppg while allowing just 58.7 ppg. They are one of the top rebounding teams in the nation, laying claim to a +9.5 differential on the glass. Green, who needs just 10 caroms to reach 1,000 for his career, scored 17 points in the recent win over Minnesota, despite shooting just 5-of-14 from the floor. Appling and Brandon Wood chipped in 13 points apiece for MSU, which shot a meager 41.5 percent from the field, missing 15 of its 20 three-point attempts in the process. The fact that the Spartans committed a mere five turnovers against 15 for the Golden Gophers certainly helped matters.
Simply put, Nebraska has virtually no shot at pulling off the upset here. Expect Green and company to earn the relatively easy win as they continue their quest for the Big Ten title.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Michigan State 76, Nebraska 57
02/25 10:54:47 ET
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