Spartans trump Nebraska, 73-64, maintain momentum after U-M game
Sophomore guard/forward Branden Dawson talks with junior guard Keith Appling after helping him up from the floor. MSU defeated Michigan, 75-52, Tuesday, Feb. 12, 2013, at Breslin Center. Justin Wan/The State News
Coming off one of the biggest victories of the season against No. 4 Michigan, the talk of practice this week for the No. 8 MSU men’s basketball team was avoiding a potential trap game against Nebraska. But Keith Appling wasn’t buying it.
The junior guard and co-team captain emphasized maintaining the style of play that’s allowed the Spartans to get off to the second-best start under head coach Tom Izzo.
And although it took more than a half to fall into place, Appling and the Spartans got the result they wanted.
Appling finished with a team-high 16 points leading the Spartans (22-4 overall, 11-2 Big Ten) to a 73-64 victory against Nebraska (12-14, 3-10). Senior center Derrick Nix also had a strong showing on the road, cashing in a double-double with 13 points and 11 rebounds, while junior center Adreian Payne also notched a double-double with 15 points and 14 rebounds in the winning effort.
“We did do some better things in the second half,” Izzo told Spartan Sports Network after the game. “The first half, we turned the ball over so much — 10 times — just playing like I was worried about, playing like a team that came off something and forgot what got them where it got them (against Michigan). Some of that is understandable, some of it is disappointing.”
Appling was fouled on his opening shot from beyond the arc and knocked down all three of his free throws to give MSU the early edge. Earning 10 of his 16 points in the first frame, Appling was a major contributor for the Spartans to set the tone in the half.
After the Spartans controlled the pace of play in the opening minutes, a 3-pointer by Nebraska guard Dylan Talley brought the game within a single point at the 13:52 mark.
But just across the midway point of the half, freshman guard Gary Harris threw down a powerful dunk to cap a 15-5 run and give the Spartans their largest lead of the first half.
Harris was one of four Spartans to finish the game in double figures in scoring, getting 14 points on 5-of-6 shooting from the field.
“(Harris) got out of sync in the first half and the foul trouble got him a little bit and that was disappointing,” Izzo said. “But we didn’t play very good. It was a workman’s-like game and some of that I understand.”
With the Spartans threatening to pull away late in the first half, Nebraska rattled off a 11-2 run of their own during a sloppy MSU stretch, highlighted by a pair of 3-pointers by Talley and center Brandon Ubel.
The run allowed Nebraska to narrow the deficit and head into halftime trailing 29-24.
Senior center Derrick Nix rebounded from a slow first half and nailed back-to-back buckets in the opening minutes of the second half to take control in the paint.
Looking for a spark, Nebraska turned to an unlikely source for offense — freshman guard Shavon Shields. Within the first six minutes, Shields knocked down his first five shots of the half, giving Shields 12 points and bringing the Cornhuskers within a single point.
Shields finished with a double-double in the game with 19 points and 13 rebounds.
Appling hit another pair of free throws with 12:52 remaining to become the 43rd player in MSU men’s basketball history to total 1,000 career points and just the 29th to do it in three seasons.
“I’m amazed to see Keith went 3-for-11 because I thought he played awfully well,” Izzo said.
Starting with the Appling free throws, the Spartans extended the lead to 53-44 using an 12-4 run across the midway point of the half.
Four straight points by Panye gave the Spartans a 13-point lead and the team never looked back, maintaining a double-digit lead for the much of the remainder of the game.
A late surge by Talley kept the game closer in the final minutes but it wasn’t enough for Nebraska to steal a victory on its home floor. Talley finished with a game-high 28 points on 8-of-16 shooting to go along with two assists and a rebound in the losing effort.
With the win, the Spartans now have won five games in a row, marking the fourth time this season the team has had a winning streak of that length.
The Spartans return Tuesday to Breslin Center for a showdown for the Big Ten’s top spot with No. 1 Indiana (7 p.m., ESPN).