Michigan State hasn’t been shy about discussing its lofty goals as the end of the season nears.
It’s a major reason the Big Ten leader won’t be looking past a date with struggling Nebraska.
The sixth-ranked Spartans seek their seventh straight victory when they host the Cornhuskers on Saturday night.
Michigan State (23-5, 12-3) enters the weekend alone atop the conference and is coming off a hard-fought 66-61 win at Minnesota on Wednesday. The Spartans will be playing their fourth game in 10 days Saturday after battling back from a late deficit against the Gophers.
Coach Tom Izzo said his squad should expect more tough contests down the stretch.
“When you’re trying to be in a championship run, you’ve got to steal a game somewhere,” Izzo said. “I feel very fortunate to win it, and I’m proud that we found a way to win a game that we didn’t deserve to.”
Draymond Green finished with 17 points, five rebounds, five assists and a season high-tying four steals for the Spartans, who are one game ahead of No. 8 Ohio State and 11th-ranked Michigan in the Big Ten.
“Especially how the race is now, we really needed this win,” Green said.
Nebraska has struggled in its first season in the Big Ten and sits in a last-place tie with Penn State, though it gave Michigan State a tough test in the first meeting Dec. 31.
The Cornhuskers (12-14, 4-11) led by one at halftime before the Spartans took over and won 68-55 behind Green’s game-high 19 points.
Bo Spencer led Nebraska with 15 points off the bench in that contest, marking the only game he hasn’t started this season.
Coach Doc Sadler, who seeks his 150th career Division I victory, tweaked his lineup at the time by starting freshman Josiah Moore, though Spencer likely will be on the floor at tip-off this time around.
Nebraska has lost five of six, with four of the defeats coming by double digits.
The Huskers have shot 53.8 percent over their last two games, though the Spartans have held their last nine opponents to 35.0 percent shooting combined.
Michigan State leads the Big Ten holding teams to 37.4 percent from the field while ranking first in shooting 47.5 percent in conference play. Nebraska’s league opponents are shooting 47.1 percent - 11th in the Big Ten.
The Spartans uncharacteristically have been outrebounded in two of their last three games, as Minnesota beat them 33-27 on the boards. They rank third in the nation with a plus-9.5 rebound differential.
The Huskers have lost 32 of their last 33 road games against ranked opponents, winning 65-59 over No. 22 Texas A&M on Feb. 23, 2008.
Michigan State has won four of the five all-time meetings in East Lansing, though Nebraska won the most recent matchup there 85-81 on Dec. 18, 1993.