Spartans tramples on Huskers in Big Ten
EAST LANSING, Mich. – Nick Ward and Jaren Jackson Jr. are a dynamic duo when they stay out of trouble with fouls. The big men from the state of Michigan showed what Big Ten's opponents will have to face during the first game of the team's conference on Sunday.
Ward equaled his season high with 22 points, and Jackson scored the third double-double of his freshman season as No. 3 Michigan State beat Nebraska 86-57 at the Breslin Center.
Ward also caught seven rebounds and blocked three shots. Jackson had 15 points, 10 rebounds and three blocks.
"The game plan was just to kill them," Ward said. "Either putting the ball in or throwing three or whatever."
Michigan State (7-1, 1-0 Big Ten) has won six consecutive games, including victories over the top 10 opponents North Carolina and Notre Dame in their previous two outings The 29-point victory still left coach Tom Izzo dissatisfied.
"In general, I wanted to see if we manage a bit of success, see if we handle everybody kissing our tails, and I did not think the sand was there today," Izzo said. "We were not aggressive on the defensive, and we were not aggressive offensively."
The Spartans shot 47.4 percent from the field, while keeping the Huskers (6-3, 0-1) at a season low of 27.4 percent. Michigan State beat Nebraska 32-8 in the paint and 21-11 in second-chance points.
Ward caught four of the Spartans' 13 offensive rebounds and hit the foul line often, making 10 of 13 free throws.
"It's something we try to do in every game," Ward said. "The offensive rebound is a big part of any game, in fact, offensive rebounds can win or lose a game."
This was never in doubt, but Izzo found many warts.
"We started a little careless, we did not execute, we were not setting up screens and I was totally disappointed because we did not do the things we had to do," Izzo said. "We could have won for less and played better and I would have been happier."
Cbadius Winston contributed 16 points, six rebounds and seven badists, while Miles Bridges contributed 12 points in the victory.
James Palmer Jr. led Nebraska with 15 points. Evan Taylor threw eight points.
"Our scoring problems are how we create for others and we take easier shots for our teammates," said Cornhuskers coach Tim Miles. "It's something we're slowly finding out." That has to get better. "
The Spartans made only one of their eight 3-pointer attempts before halftime, but they still led 38-26 at half-time, using a combination of inside scoring and offensive rebounds to build the lead, beating the Cornhuskers 16-2 in the paint and 15-0 in the second-chance points.
The Michigan State starter zone of Bridges, Ward and Jackson accounted for 30 points in the first half, with Bridges and Ward contributing 12 each.
"They put it in an enigma," Miles said. "This is an excellent team." This is the best team I've seen in my six years in the league, and that includes to the team that went to the Final Four, they have better depth, more length, and I think their defense is better, it's difficult to get where you want with them. "
Michigan State picked up the game right where it left it on its first possession in the second half while Ward scored on a rebound. When Xavier Tillman scored on another offensive rebound five minutes from halftime, the advantage was 55-34.
The Spartans were at the top by double digits for the entire half.
NOTES: The Spartans are 48-10 all time in Big Ten starters at home and 32-36 in conference starters. … Michigan State defeated Nebraska in seven of 10 meetings since the Cornhuskers joined the conference. The Spartans lead the all-time series 15-9. … The Cornhuskers have faced an opponent ranked in five of their last seven Big Ten starters. … Nebraska receives 12 Minnesota on Tuesday, while the state of Michigan plays at Rutgers on the same night.