It was another loss — Nebraska’s 13th in its last 17 tries, dropping the record to 15-15 on the season and 5-14 in conference play — but the end result was mostly expected. How they got there, though, was a bit different than in recent weeks. The Huskers battled with the ninth-ranked Michigan State Spartans Tuesday night before falling 91-76.
Here are three takes from the game.
Just When You Least Expected It…
Who is this Nebraska team and where has it been for the last month?
Nebraska was down by 20 and the offense was stagnating and the defense was giving up open shots and Kenny Goins was looking like an All-American (a career-high 21 points scored before halftime) and it just looked like more of the same after 20 minutes. They went six minutes without a made field goal midway through the first half. It looked, again, bad.
But then there was a 7-0 run early in the second half from the Huskers. James Palmer Jr. got rolling. Nebraska hit some momentum shots. There was defensive intensity. A free throw make from Roby with 11:37 to play in the second half made it a seven-point game. Michigan State immediately went on a 7-0 run to go back up double-digits but the lead never ballooned back up to 20.
The Huskers showed some grit and determination I didn’t think they still had.
Nana Akenten was whistled for a flagrant-1 foul on a hook-and-hold during that Spartan run that resulted in a five-point possession which was, at the time, really poor timing, but here’s the thing. It was some nasty we haven’t seen in a few weeks.
Nebraska took the air out of the home crowd for most of the second half. Home fans seemed a little uneasy. When was the last time that was said about a Husker road game?
After the last game, I wrote about the Huskers needing to show some pride. I’d say they did that. Now, giving up 91 points in a game is bad, and giving up 91 against an opponent as good as Michigan State is worse. The Huskers’ needed a better all-around effort in the first half, as 20-point deficits aren’t easily erased against top teams, but give credit where credit is due. The Huskers didn’t quit.
A *Much* Better Palmer
This is the James Palmer Jr. I’ve been wanting.
For weeks, the Huskers’ lead guard has struggled. His shooting on the season had dipped to a career-low 35.7 percent. He couldn’t finish at the rim and wasn’t hitting from the perimeter. Palmer just looked like a frustrated scorer with tunnel vision.
It came to a head last Thursday on the road against Michigan when he was benched after the first half and pretty uninterested in playing defense. The broadcast crew working the game spent most of the evening tearing into his and Glynn Watson Jr.’s effort.
Well, Palmer responded. (And Watson, but Jacob Padilla’s writing about him soon.) The senior went for 30 points while playing the entire game. There was virtually no playmaking for teammates but at this point, who cares? Nebraska needs scoring and Palmer finally provided that in a somewhat-efficient manner.
He shot 4-for-10 from 3 and got to the free throw line for six attempts. In the second half, when the Huskers made their move, he was at his best. Fourteen first-half points came on 14 shots, but he got 16 points in the second on 6-for-10 shooting with no turnovers. He put his head down and attacked the basket rather than settling for long jumpers and guarded well on the other end.
There’s so much talk about a lack of leadership surrounding this team, but Palmer, on national TV no less, looked like a guy willing the Huskers to stay in the game.
Maybe They’ll Hire You?
Michigan State fans are funny.
Tim Miles is, too.
Another reporter said Miles later yelled back “Maybe they’ll hire you.”
I mean… I don’t have anything else to add but I’m all for an edgy Miles. If he’s going down, he’s shown he will be going down swinging.
Derek is a newbie on the Hail Varsity staff covering Husker athletics. In college, he was best known as ‘that guy from Twitter.’ He has covered a Sugar Bowl, a tennis national championship and almost everything in between (except an NCAA men’s basketball tournament game… *tears*). In his spare time, he can be found arguing with literally anyone about sports.