Nebraska knew full well it would take a monumental effort to go on the road and knock off No. 6 Michigan State on Saturday night. The Huskers didn't get anywhere close to that.
In posting their lowest point total of the season, Nebraska was completely dominated from the opening tip in a 62-34 loss to the Spartans.
The Huskers (12-15 overall, 4-12 in Big Ten) shot a season-low 29.2 percent from the field as a team, committed 12 turnovers and were out-rebounded, as MSU led by as many 32 points before settling for a 28-point victory.
The game couldn't have started much worse for Nebraska offensively. The Huskers managed just 15 points in the first half, tying their lowest total in a half this season (they also scored just 15 in the first half against Michigan on Feb.8).
Nebraska's 34 points also tied for its third-lowest point total since 1947 and were the lowest in head coach Doc Sadler's six seasons in Lincoln.
"For the most part, besides probably about maybe two plays, I was happy with our effort, because I thought our guys played as hard as they could play," Sadler said during his post-game radio show on the Husker Sports Network.
After senior guard Toney McCray had his shot blocked on NU's opening possession, Michigan State's Adreian Payne threw down a one-handed dunk for the Spartans' first points.
That series would essentially set the tone for the rest of the first half, as Nebraska went on to shoot just 7-of-26 from the field (26.9 percent) and 1-of-9 from beyond the arc. It wasn't until a tip-in by junior forward Brandon Ubel with 4:06 left in the half that NU finally reached double figures in points and made it 21-11.
The only thing that worked in the Huskers' favor was that Michigan State didn't exactly come out firing either. The Spartans shot 50 percent (9-of-18) as a team, but only led 23-15 at halftime despite Nebraska's ice-cold shooting.
As if things weren't bad enough, the Huskers got their worst news yet when senior point guard Bo Spencer - who had just two points on 1-of-6 shooting in the first half - injured his left ankle in the final seconds of the half and did not return the rest of the night.
"At halftime, you're down eight and you'd only shot the basketball about right at 30 percent, your defense was as good as it could be, you're thinking you're going to have a chance, and who knows what may happen? But obviously with Bo turning his ankle was something that made it more difficult, but that's part of it. You've got to have somebody else step up and make some plays. Defensively I thought we still did that, we just couldn't make any baskets tonight."
Just like the start to the game, Michigan State opened the second half in big fashion, as guard Branden Dawson got the Spartans rolling with a steal and dunk.
That sparked a 10-2 run that helped MSU to go up by its biggest lead to that point at 33-17 after a 3-pointer by guard Austin Thornton with 14:51 left in the game. The Spartans kept on rolling from there, eventually extending their run to 26-4 and going up by a commanding 48-19 lead with just over 10 minutes remaining.
It was all Michigan State from then on, as the Spartans improved to a perfect 17-0 at home this season, while the Huskers dropped to just 1-7 in Big Ten road games. Ubel led the Huskers with 13 points, while All-American Draymond Green put up a game-high 20 points and 10 rebounds.
"What more can this team give you?" Sadler said. "They can't give me any more than what they're giving me. Again, we're not making some shots, but you come in here and hold a team such as Michigan State, that's leading the lead in offensive rebounding and all the things that they're doing, and you hold them to 23 points in the first half, you don't give up transition baskets, you're not turning the basketball over - you're just not making any shots.
"If we were taking bad shots we could get that corrected, but you saw the game. We're not taking bad shots. We're just not making them."
Nebraska returns home on Wednesday for its final home game of the season and Senior Night when it plays host to Iowa at 8 p.m. CT.
"One of the reasons I came to Nebraska was because I knew what great fans we had," Sadler said. "It's tough. It's a very difficult situation for our fans. It's a very difficult situation for our players. But the only question I would ask anybody is have these guys given their all and have they maxed out their effort? I think they have.
"If that's what we're really about at the University of Nebraska, we've got to win basketball games, but if we want a team that's going to play hard, I think this basketball team has played hard. I'd hope that some of these guys that have been here for four or five years, I hope that people will come out and show them that they do appreciate the effort that they've been giving."
Around the rim
***Sadler said he was unsure of Spencer's status moving forward, but was hopeful he wouldn't have to miss any extended time due to his injury.
"I have no idea," Sadler said. "That's something that obviously takes some time, and we'll see how sore it is. But I would expect him to be OK."