The Nebraska men’s basketball team fought hard Thursday night, but the Huskers could not overcome their worst shooting night of the season in a 70-64 loss to No. 6 Michigan State at Pinnacle Bank Arena.
Despite shooting just 32.8 percent from the field and hitting only 5-of-26 from the 3-point line, Nebraska was within striking distance in a game that featured 11 lead changes and six ties. The game was tied at 44 with 9:43 remaining, but Michigan State responded with a 7-0 run and never relinquished the lead.
The loss snapped Nebraska’s school-record-tying 20-game home winning streak, as the Huskers dropped to 13-5 on the season and 3-4 in Big Ten Conference play. James Palmer Jr. led the Huskers with 24 points and eight rebounds, and the senior went 11-of-11 from the free-throw line. Isaac Copeland Jr. added 13 points in his 100th career start, while Thomas Allen chipped in nine points and Glynn Watson Jr. had eight.
Cassius Winston led Michigan State with a career-high 29 points on 9-of-15 shooting. Behind Winston, the Spartans (16-2 overall, 7-0 Big Ten) won their 11th straight game, set a school record with their 19th consecutive regular-season Big Ten Conference win and extended their school record with their 11th consecutive Big Ten road win.
Michigan State used the play of Winston and Nick Ward to take a 33-28 lead into the locker room, marking the first time the Huskers had trailed at halftime at home this season. Winston had 16 first-half points and three assists, while Ward added nine points and six rebounds. Copeland led NU with nine first-half points, but Nebraska shot just 28 percent from the field.
Nebraska trailed 15-11 before Watson keyed an 8-0 spurt with a pair of 3-pointers, the second of which gave the Huskers a 19-15 lead with 10:51 left in the first half. MSU responded with five straight points to regain the lead before Allen answered with a three to put NU on top 22-20. The Huskers stretched the lead to four on an Allen basket with 4:47 to play in the half, but that was the last field goal Nebraska would make in the half, as the Spartans closed the half on an 11-2 run, scoring the final seven points of the period to take a five-point lead at the half.
In the second half, Nebraska used a 6-0 run to grab a 36-35 lead five minutes into the period. Michigan State answered by scoring seven of the next nine points but the Huskers again fought back, tying the game at 44 on a pair of Palmer free throws with less than 10 minutes to play. But Michigan State put the game away with a 16-4 run over the next eight minutes, building a 60-48 advantage with 1:50 to play.
Nebraska did not give up, trimming the lead to as little as four at 68-64 with 14 second remaining, but Michigan State hit 9-of-10 free throws down the stretch to seal their 11th consecutive win. In all, MSU went 16-of-18 from the foul line in the win.
The Huskers return to action on Monday night, as Nebraska travels to Rutgers.