Sunday, June 26, 2022

FINAL: MSU 79, Nebraska 67: Max Christie's strong scoring night leads Spartans past Cornhuskers

January 5, 2022
Freshman guard Max Christie takes a shot during the first half of the Spartans' game against Nebraska on Jan. 5, 2022 at the Breslin Center in East Lansing, Michigan.
Freshman guard Max Christie takes a shot during the first half of the Spartans' game against Nebraska on Jan. 5, 2022 at the Breslin Center in East Lansing, Michigan. —
Photo by Devin Anderson-Torrez | The State News

Michigan State maintained a narrow lead for most of the game before pulling away late to beat Nebraska 79-67.

After an early assault from the Cornhuskers, Michigan State settled in to lead the game comfortably for the final 35 minutes of the game to move to 13-2 on the year and 4-0 in the Big Ten. 

Michigan State was able to score at will against Nebraska’s defense, putting up 79 points on 52% shooting from the field. MSU was led by its duo of deadly wings of senior Gabe Brown and freshman Max Christie who combined for 31 points and made five of MSU’s eight threes.

Christie finished with a career high 21 points on just nine shots from the field. The freshman guard shot 78% from the field and 75% from three as he continues to find his footing within the Michigan State offense. The early season shooting struggles have seemed to subside for Christie and MSU reaped the benefits tonight. 

The Spartans struggled to have consistent stretches of competent offense to pull away completely because of 19 turnovers committed by MSU. Despite the mental mistakes, MSU scored at will thanks to its strong shooting and ability to poach 11 offensive rebounds for second chances. 

Nebraska took an early lead in the first five minutes of the game thanks to lights-out shooting. The Cornhuskers hit its first seven shots to maintain a narrow five-point advantage, but turnovers and strong shooting from MSU kept the game close through the early barrage from the visitors. 

The steady hand that helped guide MSU through the turbulence was Christie, who hit his first three shots of the game and scored seven of the team’s first nine points in the first three minutes of the game. 

It only took a few minutes for MSU’s defense to settle in and find its footing in the game. After falling behind 17-12 in just under five minutes, Michigan State quickly ripped off an 8-0 run over the next two minutes to retake a 20-17 lead.

Nebraska, however, came ready to fight and threw multiple haymakers in the first half. The Cornhuskers shot 48% from the field in the first half to keep pace with MSU’s consistent offensive pressure. The leading scorer for Nebraska in the opening half was junior center Derrick Walker Jr. with 10 points.

Michigan State went through the opening half at a torrid pace offensively, but could not get out of their own way. Michigan State had 10 turnovers in the first 10 minutes of the game, handicapping the Spartan offense despite shooting almost 70% from the field over the same period of time. 

Brown began to take matters into his own hands at the end of the half after Nebraska took a one-point lead with three minutes left in the half. Brown answered with a three from in front of Nebraska’s bench to give MSU the lead again then followed that up with a coast-to-coast drive with a behind-the-back crossover leading to an emphatic two-handed slam.

The Spartans finished the first half shooting 55% from the field with 12 turnovers to take a slim 38-34 lead into the halftime locker room thanks to Brown’s efforts in the waning moments of the half.

Michigan State quickly jumped out to an eight-point lead minutes after halftime thanks to three made three’s from junior guard Tyson Walker and Christie. Nebraska junior forward Lat Mayen quickly answered the last triple with a three of his own to keep the lead to five. 

The Michigan State lead hovered in the single digits for the first nine minutes of the second half before the Spartans were able to push the lead to 10 points on a soaring alley-oop dunk to Brown with 11 minutes left.

The Spartans continued to hold onto a lead fluctuating between six and 12 points for the next six minutes of game time while trading baskets with Nebraska. MSU began to pull away even more with just over four minutes left to secure the comfortable victory.

The Spartans avoided enough mental mistakes to push its winning streak to eight games and keep the wave of momentum rolling into MSU’s rivalry matchup against Michigan on Saturday in Ann Arbor. 

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