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Michigan State basketball: The great, good, bad, and ugly from Nebraska win

There was a lot of good and great in MSU’s win over Nebraska.

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Michigan State basketball
Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

After a near perfect first half, Michigan State basketball wins its fifth straight game against a solid Nebraska team.

Continuing with its five-game home stretch, Michigan State basketball invited the Nebraska Cornhuskers to Breslin on Tuesday night.

Nebraska came into this matchup on a two-game winning streak, while also taking the consensus No. 1 team in the Big Ten, Purdue, into overtime. The Spartans, themselves coming off a great non-conference win against Buffalo, put together one of the best first-half performances in quite some time.

For the Spartans, just about everything was going right in the first half. After suffering a slight wrist injury Friday night, Tyson Walker proved it was only a slight inconvenience as he poured in 16 of his 21 points in the first half. To put this red-hot performance in perspective, the Cornhuskers, as a team, only had 17 going into halftime. Even though Nebraska is not a high scoring team, that should not take away from Walker’s impressive feat.

Despite a small surge to begin the second half, the Spartans handled business and gain as much momentum as they could going into the weekend clash with the Wolverines.

Here is the great, good, bad, and ugly from the Spartans victory over the Cornhuskers.

Great: Michigan State’s ball movement

MSU had multiple possessions that were extremely short in length, some as short as just three to four seconds, and yet, four Spartans touched the ball. The ball movement, at times, was so clinical that the Cornhuskers were not even aware who had the ball, leading to uncontested shots.

Basketball is a game of energy, and effective ball movement equals energy. More often than not, the team with the most energy will find that the basket begins to look like a hula-hoop. Michigan State was the beneficiary of this tonight, finding themselves with countless wide-open 3-point attempts, or simple mid-range jumpers.

Multiple Spartans got in on the energized passing/scoring offensive performance, finishing as a team with 24 assists on 31 made field goals.

Good: Jaxon Kohler

While Mady Sissoko played the better big man game tonight, finishing with 10 rebounds and three blocks, Jaxon Kohler deserves credit as well. Putting together the best performance of his young Spartan career, Kohler finished with 10 points (5-for-5) in 15 minutes.

Continuing a season long trend thus far, Kohler showed his above average shooting touch in the mid-range. Utilizing smooth turnaround jumpers while also simply squaring up and letting go, Jaxon made the Cornhuskers respect him outside the paint. Along with the offense supplied, Jaxon also contribution to the infectious energy Michigan State displayed throughout the game.

Even with struggling on defense, a game like this from the young center is a great sign of things to come.

Bad: Free throw attempts

In what has proven to be one of the more difficult tasks for this Michigan State offense, free throw attempts were, again, extremely low. Just attempting six total free throws, Michigan State was unable to get fouls called. While this could be contributed to the extremely efficient shooting performance in the first half, there were plenty of opportunities during the second half to get the ball down low, and attack Nebraska’s big men.

On top of the possibly adding to their lead, Michigan State would have benefitted from getting senior big man Derrick Walker in foul trouble. Walker led the Cornhuskers with 15 points, playing 29 minutes.

Rotating the ball down low and forcing opposing centers/forwards into foul trouble is going to be paramount as Michigan State moves deeper into Big Ten play.

Ugly: Inability to defend the paint, allowing multiple and-one opportunities

Nebraska managed to put together a second half comeback of sorts thanks in hand to their efforts below the rim. With the outside shots not falling for the Cornhuskers, just 2-for-16 from three, the Big Red relied on the drive and look for the foul method.

Doing so actually began to work for Nebraska, as the Spartans were called for six and-one fouls.

Nebraska had a difficult time converting on the three-point opportunities, but by safe to say MSU was playing with fire. Players are often coached that if you find yourself out of position and forced to foul, make sure the defender is not able to get a decent shot up.

One can assume this will be a point of emphasis for Michigan State basketball in practice this week.

Writer and contributor for Spartan Shadows. Tyler Dutton, a graduate of Michigan State, is a college and professional basketball specialist with over four years of experience writing on both the Spartans and Pistons.

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