Tuesday, January 31, 2023

FINAL: MSU 84, Nebraska 77, Spartan losing streak ends with 2020

January 2, 2021
<p>MSU men&#x27;s basketball defeated Nebraska, 84-77, on Jan. 2, 2021. Photo courtesy of Nebraska athletics.</p><p></p><p></p><p></p><p></p><p></p><p></p><p></p>

MSU men's basketball defeated Nebraska, 84-77, on Jan. 2, 2021. Photo courtesy of Nebraska athletics.

It’s definitely new, reporting on games outside the Breslin Center via the couch and the Big Ten Network’s stream rather than hopping in a car with my partner and making cross-state drives.

It’s definitely new for the No. 17 Michigan State men’s basketball team (7-3), still, to play in empty arenas and take precautions further than practicing before a matchup.

The oddity of the 2020-21 pandemic-riddled campaign for the Spartans is showing, badly.

The Spartans are down 1-3 in the Big Ten conference for the first time since the 2002-03 season, 7-3 overall, and dropping in the AP Polls rapidly — from No. 4 all the way to No. 17.

And who knows what’s next? Fans were nervous, disappointed, even angry with their players.

Key word: “were.”

The green and white kicked off the new year with a new swagger at the Pinnacle Bank Arena in Lincoln, Nebraska, against the unranked Cornhuskers (4-7). MSU took their first conference win of the season with a final score of 84-77.

They must’ve knocked on wood because, considering they fumbled the past three games on their schedule, this victory was both nail biting and jaw dropping. Fourth time’s the charm?

"I'm not as happy as I should be," head coach Tom Izzo said postgame. "We won a game, got off the snide, but at the same time we had a 17-18 point lead and we have to figure out a way to get through that. ... We got our first win (in conference), we're going to have to get a lot better. We did some good things, but not up to par with what we're capable of."

Izzo shook up the starting five Saturday evening, putting freshman guard A.J. Hoggard to step in for fan favorite sophomore guard Rocket Watts. Junior forward Thomas Kithier was also seen in the starting line up, an unpopular take among fans lately.

While Hoggard only scored four points, he was a big helping hand for the Spartan defense.

Kithier also scored seven points.

Along with Hoggard and Kithier, graduate guard Joshua Langford, redshirt junior forward Joey Hauser and junior forward Aaron Henry made an impact.

Langford scored the first two points of the game for MSU off free throws, going on to end the night with 15 points, two assists and one rebound after 29 minutes of play time.

Henry was the first to score double figures, hitting 17 points in the first half. He went on to end the night breaking his career high with a total of 27 points, one assist and four rebounds, going 10-for-16 from the field and 3-for-5 from the arc in 32 minutes of play time.

Izzo called it the best game of Henry's life.

Hauser got smacked. Literally. He walked off the court with a bloody face in the first half, ending the night with five points and one less tooth, according to Izzo.

Other Spartan stars included Watts and junior forward Gabe Brown, who laid out nine and 10 points respectively.

"They all did what they could do," Izzo said.

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Nebraska junior guard Teddy Allen led the way for the Huskers, coming out with a total of 23 points and going 10-for-18 from the field, 3-for-7 from the arc in 25 minutes of play time.

Allen was backed up by fellow Husker senior guard Kobe Webster and junior guard Trey McGowens, who laid out 10 and 20 points respectively.

The other Husker to score decent figures, at eight points, was junior forward Lat Mayen. However, he fouled out with less than five minutes left in the second half.

The Spartans will host the No. 14 Rutgers Scarlet Knights (7-2) in their fifth conference game of the season Tuesday, Jan. 5. Tipoff is scheduled for 9 p.m.

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