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Nebrasketball returns to action in 66-56 loss to Spartans

First game in 27 days follows program shutdown due to Covid outbreak

NCAA Basketball: Nebraska at Michigan State Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

On Jan 10, players for the Nebraska Cornhuskers laced up their sneakers for a game against the Indiana Hoosiers. 27 days later, they were finally able to do so again following a long shutdown due to a COVID-19 outbreak within the program. In that long-awaited game, Michigan State (9-7 overall, 3-7 B1G) defeated the Cornhuskers 66-56 in a low-scoring, turnover-riddled affair Saturday night at the Breslin Center in East Lansing.

Nebraska (4-9, 0-6) shot themselves to a brief first half lead on a three-point play from sophomore Dalano Banton with 9:25 remaining in the first half. That closed a run of 4-8 made field goals. The Big Red wouldn’t hit another basket until a fast-break dunk from junior Shamiel Stevenson with just 1:05 left before the break. That 8:10 field goal drought allowed the Spartans to build a 12-point halftime advantage.

Michigan State stretched that lead to 42-26 just 3:30 into the second half. But Nebraska slowly chipped away with a 13-4 run spanning almost eight minutes. Stevenson assisted senior Kobe Webster’s 3-ball, and junior Teddy Allen assisted Banton’s layup, cutting the lead down to 46-39. The seven-point deficit was as close as NU would get.

Joshua Langford scored ten of his game-high 18 points after halftime, shooting 4-6 from deep. Aaron Henry added 16 points and led all players with five assists. Over an almost 11-minute stretch of second half action, no other Spartan scored. A Gabe Brown dunk with 11:34 left gave MSU a 46-34 lead, and Foster Loyer made two free throws with 50 seconds remaining to make it 61-51. All 13 points in-between came from Langford and Henry.

With a 46.7% shooting performance in the second half, the Huskers improved upon their 25% first half. However, their shooting from both the 3-point line and the charity stripe undermined their efforts all night long. Only three of 17 treys were good (17.6%), while an 11-24 showing on free throws (45.8%) wasted an early foul advantage.

No Huskers scored in double figures until Trey McGowens and Lat Mayen each broke through with less than two minutes in the contest. The juniors finished with 13 and 10, respectively.

While McGowens led the way for Nebraska, it was a tough night for the other two reliable scorers. Allen made just one of ten field goals and scored only three points. Banton fouled out with six points and six rebounds. Neither of them made a three-pointer, and they each had more turnovers than assists.

Coming off such a long layoff, Nebraska’s game minutes were spread out a bit more. Trey McGowens spent just under 32 minutes on the floor, the first Big Ten game this season other than Ohio State (a game the Buckeyes led at one point by 41) in which no Husker played at least 32 minutes. All nine participants saw at least 13 minutes against the Spartans.

Saturday’s game was the first time all season that Head Coach Fred Hoiberg was able to play his top nine players in the same game. Derrick Walker made his first start against the Hoosiers after finishing his suspension, but Yvan Ouedraogo was not available.

Since the program shutdown caused the postponement of six games, Nebraska will now continue with what Hoiberg described as “an NBA schedule,” compressing those back in between their remaining games. Michigan State was the first of four matchups in just nine days. Next up: at Minnesota on Monday at 7pm.

Coach Hoiberg Post-Game Remarks