Saturday's #AveryStrong game between the Michigan State Spartans and the Nebraska Cornhuskers provided one of the most entertaining games of the season. In front of a crowd of 15,797 fans, the Cornhuskers fed off an atmosphere similar to No Sit Sunday. The Huskers jumped out early, and then withheld a furious Spartan rally to hang on for the 79-77 win.
Missing two starters for the majority of the game, the Huskers started out hot, not missing the likes of David Rivers who did not dress (knee) and Walter Pitchford who was ejected for an elbow to the head of MSU forward Matt Costello early in the first half.
After the ejection of Pitchford, Nebraska responded with an inspired first half. The dynamic duo of Shields and Petteway scored 28 points in the first half. Petteway forced a Michigan State timeout after a pair of long triples. The Huskers attacked the rim in the first half, getting Michigan State into foul trouble early.
Michigan State used an 8-0 run to pull within 47-41 at the midway point of the second half. After a timeout, Shields and Petteway went on an 11-2 run to put the Huskers back up comfortably. The game was close to getting out of control at several points, but the Spartans used 24 offensive rebounds to gain second chance points.
While the Spartans were dominating the offensive boards, Nebraska used precise free throw shooting to stay in front and win the game. Nebraska ended the game making 29 out of 37 at the free throw line, while Michigan State shot only 15 for 25.
A late rally by Michigan State was led by Travis Trice and Denzel Valentine, and got the Nebraska lead down to three with 13 seconds left. Petteway split a pair of free throws to put the Huskers up by four, but Trice quickly responded to bring MSU within two with two seconds remaining.
Nebraska finished with three players in double digits, with Petteway and Shields combing for 53 of the Huskers 79 points. Tai Webster finished in double figures for only the third game this year, going for 13 points. Webster added a pair of triples, showing flashes of his potential. Leslee Smith and Moses Abraham played significant minutes after the ejection of Pitchford, and contributed with a combined 11 rebounds.
Of note, Pitchford will be suspended for his flagrant two foul against Costello for Tuesday night's game against Michigan. Nebraska also expects to be without David Rivers for the upcoming road trip. Nebraska will be relying heavily on the combination of Leslee Smith and Moses Abraham.
Overall, Nebraska was outrebounded by a 48-26 margin. Michigan State had 16 turnovers, to Nebraska's 10. Nebraska shot 49% for the game, and the at times stifling Husker defense held the Spartans to 41% from the field. Petteway led Nebraska with 32 points, while Trice countered for Michigan State with 27 points.
With the win, Nebraska moves to 12-7 (4-3), and Michigan State falls to 13-7 (4-3). Up next for the Huskers is a two game road trip, starting with Michigan on Tuesday and Minnesota next Sunday.