James Palmer Jr. and Glynn Watson Jr. combined for 55 points Tuesday night in East Lansing, but No. 9 Michigan State used a hot-shooting first half to hold off the Huskers, 91-76, at the Breslin Center.
Palmer tied his season high with 30 points – his second 30-point effort of the year and third of his career – while Watson tied his season high with 25 points. But the effort of Nebraska’s seniors was matched by a pair of Michigan State seniors, as Kenny Goins scored a career-high 24 points for the Spartans and Matt McQuaid added a career-high 22 points.
Michigan State, which had four players in double figures, shot 53 percent from the field and the Spartans were 12-of-24 from the 3-point line. Nebraska knocked down 10 3-pointers, but the Huskers shot only 37 percent overall and were just 14-of-24 from the free-throw line. Palmer and Watson combined for nine of Nebraska’s 10 threes, while Isaiah Roby had an impressive stat line with 10 points, nine rebounds and five assists.
Nebraska outscored Michigan State 47-44 in the second half, but the Huskers could not overcome an 18-point halftime deficit. Nebraska led five minutes into the game before Michigan State used a 16-2 run to seize control and the Spartans never trailed again, although the Huskers cut a 20-point deficit to as few as eight midway through the second half.
The Spartans were 7-of-8 from the field during the decisive five-minute first-half run, including 3-of-3 from beyond the arc. Over the final 14 minutes of the first half, Michigan State was 13-of-16 from the field, including 7-of-9 from the 3-point line. The Spartans shot 59 percent overall in the half (16-of-27) and were 9-of-14 from long range, in addition to going 6-of-6 at the free-throw line.
Goins was 5-of-5 from the 3-point line in the first half, as he set a career high with 21 points by halftime. Palmer (14) and Watson (10) accounted for 24 of Nebraska’s 29 first-half points, but the Huskers were just 10-of-32 from the field in the period.
Watson scored eight points in the first five minutes to give Nebraska an early 10-8 lead. But two minutes later, Michigan State broke the game open with its 19-2 run. The run began with six straight points in less than a minute and ended with 13 consecutive points in a span of 2:21. Following the run, the Spartans had turned a tie game into a 30-14 lead with 8:05 remaining in the half.
After Amir Harris gave Nebraska its first basket in more than four minutes, Michigan State scored five quick points to push the lead to 19. Palmer then scored eight points in the final five minutes of the half, but Nebraska was only able to trim two points off the lead as the Spartans took a 47-29 lead into the locker room.
Watson got Nebraska off to a quick start in the second half as well, scoring five points in the first minute and a half. His layup sparked a 7-0 run that pulled Nebraska to within 12 three minutes into the period. After Michigan State stretched the lead back to 16, the Huskers made six consecutive shots – including a pair of 3-pointers – to cut the lead to eight at 62-54 at the under-12 media timeout.
After Nebraska trimmed a 20-point deficit down to eight, Michigan State responded with a 7-0 run, including a five-point possession that forced a Husker timeout with the Spartans on top 69-55. Nebraska got as close as 11 at the 7:35 mark, but Michigan State pulled away from there even though the Huskers shot 53 percent in the second half. Palmer was 6-of-10 from the field in the second half and scored 16 points in the final 20 minutes, while Watson was 6-of-11 en route to scoring 15 second-half points.
After playing its last two games on the road, Nebraska wraps up the regular season on Sunday at home against Iowa. Tipoff is set for 1 p.m. between the Huskers and Hawkeyes at Pinnacle Bank Arena on BTN, with the Husker Sports Network providing radio coverage.
Nebraska Postgame Notes
*-James Palmer Jr. finished with 30 points, matching his season high (also vs. Creighton) and his second 30-point game of the year. His 30 points were a high by a Michigan State opponent this year. It marked Palmer’s third career 30-point game.
*- Palmer reached double figures for the 28th time this season and posted his 14th 20-point game of the season. His 14 20-point games are the most since Tyronn Lue had 16 in 1997-98. Palmer moved into 10th place on NU’s single-season points list with his performance at Michigan State.
*-Glynn Watson Jr. reached double figures for the 21st time this season with a season-high-tying 25 points. He also had 25 against Purdue on Feb. 23. Watson now has 1,422 points, moving past Venson Hamilton (1,416 points) for 12th on Nebraska’s career list.
*-With four assists, Watson also moved past Jamar Johnson (355, 1992-94) for eighth place on NU’s career assist list, as Watson now has 358 career assists.
*-Isaiah Roby set a career high with five assists, topping his previous best of four set on five other occasions, most recently against Purdue on Feb. 9
*-With two blocks tonight, Roby now has 50 on the season. He is the second player in school history to post consecutive 50-block, 50-assist seasons, joining Venson Hamilton (1997-98, 1998-99)
*-Amir Harris made his first career start tonight, as Thomas Allen (ankle) did not play. Tonight marked the sixth different lineup the Huskers have used this season.
*-Michigan State was the fifth opponent in the last 55 games to shoot over 50 percent against the Huskers dating back to last season.