It was supposed to be a big night. The Huskers (12-14, 3-10) were honoring one of the best to over lace 'em up for the Scarlet and Cream. There were some of the greatest letter winners in school history back for the celebration. They were wearing sharp throwback uniforms donning back to the year the Huskers opened up the Devaney Center. They were also hosting the #8 Michigan State Spartans (22-4, 11-2). Winners of 10 of their last 11 and needing a win to maintain their place in a first place tie heading into a match-up with #1 Indiana. This game had trap game written all over it.
MSU was well aware of the perception. So were the Huskers. Both teams played like it. Michigan St. did lead this game from wire to wire, but for much of this game, Nebraska kept it within striking distance. MSU opened up an 11 point first half lead, 23-12. The Huskers were able to close it five points going into halftime.
After the break, the Huskers gave the Spartans their best shot. Behind the inspired efforts of Shavon Shields and Dylan Talley, the Huskers closed the lead down to just one point. The 11.947 in attendance were on their feet, wanting, pleading for the Huskers to take the lead, to put doubt into the minds of Michigan St. But it was not to be. MSU used a varied attack to keep the Huskers at arms length, building that lead back up to 15, going on a 20-6 run. NU was not able to claw back into the game and the Spartans held on for the nine point lead.
In the second half, the Huskers saw two of the better performances they've seen all season from Shields and Talley. Shields collected his first career double-double with 19 points and 13 rebounds. All of his points came in the second half. Talley also recorded 19 second half points on his way to a career high 28 points.
Off nights from Ray Gallegos and Brandon Ubel who were held to one and seven points respectively, that ultimately did the Huskers in. That and the complete dominance of Derrick Nix and Adreine Payne in the rebounding column. The Huskers were not able to contain either of those two Spartans. They had 25 rebounds between the two of them. That's more than the Huskers had for the entire game. The Spartans also saw four players go over 13 points, in an efficient night offensively.
Much of the crowd certainly came for the possibility that the Huskers would pull off the upset, but this game also marked the return of Husker Hoops legend, Tyronn Lue, to the Devaney Center for the first time since he turned pro after his junior season. Lue was inducted into the Nebraska Basketball Hall of Fame over the weekend and was honored at half time of the game.
The Huskers only have two games remaining at home, the next of which is Thursday night at 8 pm vs. the Iowa Hawkeyes. Also, look for a gallery from the game tomorrow.