Michigan St.-Nebraska Preview

The Associated Press

Nebraska coach Doc Sadler voiced concern after his team received an unfriendly welcome to Big Ten play its last time out.

Things aren't about to get any easier with surging Michigan State coming to town.

After knocking off what was the conference's lone unbeaten program, the 16th-ranked Spartans look to extend their winning streak to 13 for the first time in 13 seasons Saturday against the Cornhuskers.

Michigan State (12-2, 1-0) opened with back-to-back losses to then-No. 1 North Carolina and then-No. 6 Duke, but has since outscored teams by an average of 21.7 points during a 12-game winning streak. The Spartans haven't won 13 in a row since a 22-game run Jan. 9-March 21, 1999.

Coach Tom Izzo's team is coming off its most impressive result of the season, handing previously undefeated No. 13 Indiana an 80-65 loss Wednesday. Michigan State led by as many 18 as points before suddenly finding itself down by nine with under 11 minutes remaining, but took control with a 20-0 run.

"As (forward) Draymond (Green) said after the game, we can't let a team come back like that or we're not going to win on the road," Izzo said.

While the Spartans went just 2-7 as the visiting team in Big Ten play last season, they may not have much to worry about if Nebraska's most recent effort is any indication.

In their first conference game since transferring from the Big 12, the Huskers (8-4, 0-1) were held to their lowest scoring output in almost five years during Tuesday's 64-40 home loss to No. 11 Wisconsin. They've played three home games against teams from major conferences and lost them all.

Nebraska was limited to a season-low 30.6 percent from the field and attempted just nine free throws, making seven. Senior Toney McCray, averaging 15.7 points and 8.0 rebounds over his last three games, had 16 and nine, respectively, but was the only player to score in double figures.

Four of the five starters played at least 35 minutes while no bench player saw the court for more than seven.

"I'm really concerned at how we are going to score right now with this basketball team," Sadler said. "If we don't get to the free-throw line, it is hard for us. We need to get there over 20 times, because we are going to struggle to score.

"Defensively, I didn't think it was that bad. I thought we got tired. We can't play (our starters) 36 minutes - you just can't do it. We've got to get some positive production out of some guys that are not yet ready to play. We'll see what happens on Saturday."

Though the Spartans may not be as stifling as the Badgers, they certainly haven't made things easy on their opponents. They are limiting foes to 37.7 percent shooting while allowing an average of 59.8 points to rank second and third in the conference, respectively.

The Huskers, meanwhile, sit second from the bottom in the Big Ten in both field-goal percentage (43.9) and points per game (64.6).

Nebraska might find it especially hard to keep up Saturday if Spartans sophomore Keith Appling comes out with another strong all-around display. The 6-foot-1 guard, usually recognized for his defensive prowess, posted a career-high 25 points to go along seven assists and six rebounds Wednesday.

Green also could present matchup problems, averaging a team-high 15.1 points and a league best-tying 9.6 boards.

The Huskers have taken three of four in this series, though the teams haven't met since Nebraska won 96-91 in overtime Dec. 10, 1994.

What to Read Next