To be honest, Nebraska wasn't particularly effective in this game on the offensive end, scoring just 60 points on 36% shooting (and leaving eight points at the free-throw line: 13-21, or 62%).
However, NU got big points when it needed them, namely because of men named Terran Petteway and Walter Pitchford.
Petteway is our obvious "Player of the Game" due to his back breaking three point shots down the stretch, as the Galveston, TX. native finished with a game high 23 points on 7-17 shooting. Whenever NU needed a bucket, Petteway seemed to answer.
Pitchford also hit some big time shots in his own right, including the big three to start the game and two giant baskets out of the halftime break to keep NU's train rollin'. For the night, Walt finished with 17 points on 6-12 from the field and even though Miles sat him awhile for "taunting" the Michigan State bench, I loved the enthusiasm and swagger. This is what NU has been missing for many years in tough environments (Well, good players, too, but you get the point).
David Rivers also had some giant points in this game, including the lucky second three of the game that put NU up 6-0 after he was baited into a premature "end of shot clock" three by the Iz-Zone. Rivers was scrappy as hell and finished with 6 big first half points.
Nebraska didn't get very good offensive possessions in the second half but luckily, it has Mr. Petteway on its team.
Sticking with honesty as the best policy, a TON of Nebraska's effectiveness on defense was provided by NOT TURNING THE BALL OVER (only 5 times) and keeping MSU from running.
In fact, chew on this - Michigan State had ZERO fast break points. That's ZERO.
And for a team averaging 25 points more per game, Nebraska did an AMAZING JOB on the defensive end, playing tougher and more aggressive than its foe (and holding MSU to 51 points & 34% shooting).
With that said, this game got over just in time, because NU was beginning to wear defensively down the stretch and getting into foul trouble.
However, as the old 90's TV show used to sing, "It's alright, 'cuz I'm Saved By The Bell."
Special mention to Rivers, Benny Parker and Ray Gallegos for their defensive tenacity. It would have been easy for Gallegos to sulk after I jinxed him pre-game and called for six three's (he finished 0-5 from downtown) but he "put an egg in the basket" and helped the team win by playing great "D."
Nebraska only lost on the boards by three (39 to 36) and the Huskers outrebounded Sparty on the offensive glass +1 (10-9). That is pretty impressive considering the physical specimens and frontline that MSU runs at you, including but not limited to Mr. Adreian Payne.
Again, Rivers gets big time love for his "workman like effort" in grabbing seven boards (4 offensively) and Shavon Shields led the way with eight rebounds (1 offensive). Nebraska did allow 11 second chance points but since it didn't turn the ball over, this hardly seemed like a blip on the radar.
BALL HANDLING: A+
10 assists - 5 turnovers. You couldn't ask for a better job of taking care of the basketball.
As we've already driven into the ground, the lack of turnovers allowed NU to control the pace and keep Michigan State from easy baskets and foul shots.
What's even more impressive was that Nebraska had only TWO turnovers in the second half.
Also, Petteway had zero, and for a guy that's been turning it over, A LOT, this was great to see.
I loved Miles switching up the lineup even before the game started, because I think Gallegos is a pretty dangerous weapon to have as a "6th man." It didn't end up that way (at least offensively) but it was sound strategy.
Miles had his team loose and ready to play. He made defensive switches at the correct times (liked the brief zone at the 4:00 mark of the first). He massaged his way through without getting anybody into foul trouble (except for Rivers).
I thought the timeout he took at the 9:01 mark of the second half was big; it helped stop the bleeding and got NU back on the right track. It would have been easy to wait until the under 8:00 timeout and try to "swim" until then but he didn't. In a game like this, that could easily have made the difference.
I also appreciated Miles teaching a lesson to Pitchford by sitting him after the above mentioned shenanigans. Miles didn't stop teaching, even in a game like this.
Can we sign him to a new contract yet?
OVERALL GRADE: A+
You just won at #9 Michigan State, holding them WAY under their scoring average and leading this game for approximately 80% of the clock. You win by NINE, not by one. You did it even with Keith Appling returning.
This is hard to imagine, but Nebraska now controls its own destiny. Go 5-1, and you're dancing no matter what happens in the Big 10 Tournament.
Go 4-2, and you're dancing with one win in the Big 10 Tournament.
Go 3-3, and you're dancing with three wins in the Big 10 Tournament.
Bottom line is, we were picked 12th in the Big 10, and we're now looking VERY LIKELY at a 5th or 6th place finish, which guarantees the NIT and gives us a 50-50 chance at the NCAA Tournament.
Anyone in their right mind finds this a GIANT surprise in year two of a new era.
Now, let's go 2-0 this week. We MUST take these games one at a time and not get ahead of ourselves.
I'll be in Las Vegas, betting big on the Huskers both days on the money line, so HHCScott will have your next two report cards. BTW, how cool is it that MY DAD is house sitting for me while I'm in Vegas? Haha.
Go Big Red!!!
PLAYER OF THE GAME: TERRAN PETTEWAY
2013-2014 PLAYER OF THE GAME RESULTS:
TERRAN PETTEWAY - 12
SHAVON SHIELDS - 4
WALTER PITCHFORD - 3
TAI WEBSTER - 2
LESLEE SMITH - 2
DEVERELL BIGGS - 1