The Spartans will have a slightly different lineup today as their five star freshman point guard is out due to illness (presumably COVID protocols). I didn’t catch a name, but they have another player out - that one sounded like concussion protocol? The announcers are talking about a third person (another starter) out (illness - COVID).
Ruby Porter is out for Nebraska (illness - also presumably COVID).
The Spartans hit pay dirt first as they got an early field goal and then two free throws to take a 4-0 lead in the first minute. Sam Haiby drew an early foul on MSU superstar Nia Clouden. That paid dividends a moment later as Haiby stole the ball and Clouden stepped back and let her have the layup. After four minutes, the Spartans led 11-6.
Amy Williams made a four player lineup change (Shelley stayed in) and Alexis Markowski drew a quick foul. She made one of two (13-9 MSU). Markowski committed a foul on the other end and the score stayed 13-9 a the first media timeout with two Spartan free throws pending.
The Huskers are missing a lot of shots and taking some poor, off-balance shots now. They will settle down and adjust. The key is to make MSU work as the Huskerdepth should shine late in the game. With 2:49 left, the Huskers will be in the bonus with the next foul (still 15-9 MSU). Allison Weidner breaks the scoring drought for the Huskers but the Spartans answer (17-11 MSU). One of the Spartan starters (Smith) drew her second foul - Bella Cravens made a great move. The MSU depth is going to be tested if she has to sit very long. Cravens hit both free throws (18-13 MSU).
Nia Clouden is doing a good job drawing fouls (like any great scorer). Jaz Shelley got on the scoreboard with her first three pointer.
Michigan State 20 Nebraska 16
Ashley Scoggin opened the quarter with a three pointer (20-19 MSU). Then, she decided one wasn’t enough and gave Nebraska their first lead (22-20 Neb). It took three minutes for the Spartans to register a basket but they tied the game at 22 and Clouden earned a free throw attempt to boot (she converted to get the lead back for MSU 23-22). Both teams traded baskets but then the Spartans went on a mini run to grab a 27-24 lead going into the timeout with two Spartan free throws pending.
Both free throws missed but MSU got the offensive board and took a five point lead (29-24). Clouden got to the free throw line again and extended the lead to seven (31-24). The Huskers need to get out of this offensive fun - and soon. The Huskers are mostly chucking up three pointers and mostly missing them (3 of 17). Two more Clouden free throws extended the lead to nine (33-24) with three minutes left. Nebraska’s shot selection leaves a lot to be desired right now.
With two minutes left in the half, the Spartan lead grew to 11 (35-24). Markowski finally broke the drought with 90 seconds left in the half. The Huskers need to speed up the game if they want to take advantage of their depth. It is slow right now and that plays into what MSU wants to do. Clouden got to the line yet again with three seconds left on the shot clock and made her shots (37-26 MSU).
Michigan State 37 Nebraska 26
Ashley Scoggin leads Nebraska with six points, Jaz Shelley has five. Shelley has six rebounds and Sam Haiby four. The Huskers committed 10 fouls in the first half with only Markowski having two. Nebraska is getting outrebounded (24-19) and has committed six turnovers compared to five for MSU.
The tale of the game can be told in field goal %. The Huskers are shooting a frigid 24%. They are holding the Spartans to 38%. This is an ugly game which plays into MSU’s favor. Nebraska needs to run their offense rather than chucking up off-balance jumpers early, select good shots and pressure the Spartans more.
Both teams traded baskets to start the half but Issie Bourne is missing easy, close baskets. Wow. I hope that doesn’t last long. Sam Haiby got a layup and drew the foul - Nia Clouden’s second. The score is 39-33 MSU with seven minutes left in the quarter. Haiby got another steal and drew another foul on Clouden. There wasn’t much Clouden could do on that; it was a great move by Haiby. Nebraska capitalized (no one guarded Bella Cravens on a long two) to close within four (39-35 MSU). The Spartans went on a four point run to go up by eight (43-35; Nia Clouden is over 20 points already). Sam Haiby got another steal and layup - no one challenged her this time. The Spartans ran the lead back out to 10 (47-37) but Haiby drew the fourth foul on Clouden (THAT IS HUGE!!!!) at the media timeout.
MSU does not have many options, so Clouden will not come out of the game.
Six points from Markowski (four free throws) cut the deficit to four (49-45 MSU) with 1:45 left. The Spartans hit a shot out of the break, followed by a Jaz Shelley three and a Spartan layup to make the score 53-48 MSU with 30 seconds left in the quarter. Amy Williams is trusting freshman Allison Weidner to guard Clouden now. Clouden drew a foul on Shelley, but Shelley was set (when I looked at the replay but I might be biased). That should have been Clouden’s fifth foul IMO.
Michigan State 55 Nebraska 48
Annika Stewart missed a three, but Haiby got the rebound and gave it back - this one was good! Shelley then found Stewart inside to close within two (55-53 MSU). Bella missed a short shot and the Spartans hit a three of their own (58-53 MSU). The Huskers sped up the game and Scoggin hit a three but the defense is not holding their own by getting stops (60-56 MSU) with 7:29 left.
Haiby went after Nia Clouden but Clouden stayed clean and Sammy scored a basket on the drive. She decided to repeat that move again against Clouden and made it a two point game (62-60). Madame Clutch is going to work again.
The Huskers started to miss shots again and were inconsistent on defense as the clock went under four minutes. Nebraska is also not rebounding well right now.
At three minutes the score is 66-60 in MSU’s favor.
Markowski was left alone. 66-62.
Sam Haiby! 66-64 with 1:48.
Clouden drew the fourth foul on Jaz Shelley at 1:43 and made her free throws. 68-64 MSU.
Haiby draws the foul at 1:22. She makes both. 68-66 MSU.
Clouden drew the foul with 59 seconds. She made one. 69-66 MSU.
Sam Haiby committed an offensive foul (moving screen).
Nia Clouden with the jumper. 71-66 Spartans with 24 seconds.
ASHLEY SCOGGIN! 71-69 MSU with 20 seconds.
Huskers foul and the Spartans make one with 19 seconds (72-69 MSU).
Nebraska put up two three pointers in the final seconds but for naught.
Final. Michigan State 72 Nebraska 69.
The Husker offense was cold, only shooting 33% from the field. Nebraska could not take advantage of a depleted Spartan offense and let MSU dictate the game. The Huskers chucked up 33 three pointers and only connected on seven of them (21%). Michigan State shot 41% from the field but were as bad as Nebraska from long range, going 2-15 (13%).
Sam Haiby led Nebraska with 19 points, Ashley Scoggin had 12 and Alexis Markowski 11. Jaz Shelley led the team in rebounds with nine, Haiby had seven and Markowski 6. Nebraska was outrebounded 45-38 with the main difference being (surprisingly) in defensive rebounds. Nebraska only comitted nine turnovers and forced the Spartans into 13.
If the Huskers were looking past Michigan State (and maybe they weren’t - the Spartans are very good at home) then things only get harder from here. The next five games will be against 2021 NCAA tournament teams with four of them being against ranked opponents.