Photo Credit: John S. Peterson

Shooting Struggles Doom Nebraska in 74-56 Loss at Michigan State

January 03, 2023

A 28-6 close to the first half doomed Nebraska to a 10th straight loss to Michigan State as the Spartans handed the Huskers a 74-56 loss at the Breslin Center on Tuesday.

Nebraska (8-7, 1-3 Big Ten) had a lot of success in the paint and shot nearly 60% from the field in the second half, but the 3-point shooting and free-throw shooting weren’t good enough to overcome a 22-point halftime deficit.

The Cornhuskers shot 41.8% from the field including 2-of-16 from 3 and 8-of-20 from the foul line. Nebraska scored 40 points in the paint including 26 in the second half, but they only scored 16 points from every other area of the floor.

Michigan State (10-4, 2-1) didn’t have a great game from deep either at 32%, but the Spartans hit eight of them and shot 47.7% overall while outscoring Nebraska 18-5 in second-chance points.

“The effort in the first half, I thought, is what costs us,” Coach Fred Hoiberg said. “They got out in transition and the rebounds, they crushed us on the glass … We had two things on our board for the game plan. Normally we have a long list what we need to do; we had two things: get back and rebound. Second half we did a pretty good job getting back, but the glass was an issue all night.”

Derrick Walker led Nebraska with 15 points, nine rebounds and three assists, but he shot just 7-of-13 from the floor and 1-of-8 from the foul line with three turnovers. Sam Griesel added 10 points on 4-of-7 shooting and three assists while Wilhelm Breidenbach chipped in 10 points on 4-of-8 shooting and four boards off the bench.

C.J. Wilcher, Keisei Tominaga, Emmanuel Bandoumel and Juwan Gary — Nebraska’s top four perimeter shooters in terms of attempts by a significant margin — combined to shoot 1-of-13 from deep.

Walker got off to a hot start for Michigan State with seven quick points as the Spartans jumped out to an 11-6 lead early.

With Blaise Keita missing his second straight game, Breidenbach checked in as the back-up five and scored five straight including a 3 from the top of the key to tie the game up at 11-11, but the momentum was short-lived.

Nebraska went ice cold while Michigan State got red hot, hitting 8-of-9 shots from the field and ripping off a 15-2 run to build a 26-13 lead. Nebraska went scoreless for nearly four minutes before Walker found Gary on a back-cut for a dunk.

The Huskers locked back in on defense, holding Michigan State scoreless for four minutes, but they only managed to add a bucket from Walker to Gary’s dunk to cut the deficit to nine before a corner 3 from Joey Hauser pushed the lead back to double figures.

The triple sparked a 13-0 run as Nebraska did not score in the last six and a half minutes of the half. Michigan State led 39-17 at the break as Breidenbach missed a point-blank put-back at the buzzer, a fitting end to a miserable offensive half for the Huskers.

Nebraska made just eight shots in the first 20 minutes, shooting 27.6% from the field (including 1-of-11 from 3) and missing both free throws. The Huskers also turned the ball over seven times, leading to 11 Michigan State points.

Michigan State also turned five offensive rebounds into 11 second-chance points while the Huskers didn’t score on any of their four offensive rebounds. Walker nearly outscored Nebraska himself, putting up 16 points on 7-of-10 shooting (2-of-3 from 3) in 15 minutes.

“The first possession kind of set the tone. We need to close out with urgency; we’ve been doing a really good job of that, and Tyson Walker hits a 3 to really get himself going and get confident, and that was kind of the theme of the first half.” Hoiberg said. “I thought we were just a half a step late and that’s all it takes, and they made shots. They made some runners, some one-foot runners and that kind of thing, and we just could not get anything going on that other end. We had some open looks, had some layups that we missed, and you just can’t get those back.”

Nebraska showed some scrappiness on defense early in the second half, forcing four misses and two turnovers to start and getting buckets from Griesel, Wilcher and Walker to cut the deficit to 16 three minutes in.

The Huskers continued their improved offensive play throughout the half, putting together an 11-3 run featuring buckets from five different players to cut the deficit to 12. Breidenbach, who capped the run with a three-point play, answered a Jaxon Kohler put-back with a put-back of his own to make it 58-46 with just under nine minutes to play. The Huskers were shooting over 60% from the field in the half to that point.

The comeback ran out of steam, however, as Michigan State ripped off a 10-0 run to push the lead back to 22 with four minutes to play.

“Second half, I thought we came out and had a completely different mentality,” Hoiberg said. “We cut that thing to 12 with about six missed free throws; that thing could have been six or seven points and then who knows what happens. But just the inability to make open shots and not being able to convert free ones at the line, those end up costing you.” 

Both teams cleared their benches with less than two on the clock and the gap at 23, and redshirt freshman walk-on Sam Hoiberg went 3-for-4 at the foul line to get it down to 20. Jamarques Lawrence found Oleg Kojenets at the rim for the final bucket of the game.

Nebraska shot 57.7% from the field in the second half but went just 1-for-5 from 3 and 8-for-18 from the foul line.

“We’ve got to find a way to bounce back and learn from this one,” Hoiberg said. “We’ve got a huge one coming up on Saturday. We’ve lost three games in league against three really good teams, two of those on the road. We’ve got another one on the road on Saturday and we’ve got to find a way to get past this one and come out and play with great energy and hopefully put the ball in the basket.”

Nebraska will play one more on the road before returning to Pinnace Bank Arena, traveling to Minnesota on Saturday.

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