Men's College Basketball
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       === Huskers face uphill climb in clash with visiting Spartans ===
 Lincoln, NE (Sports Network) - The eighth-ranked Michigan State Spartans will
 try to continue as the hottest team in the Big Ten Conference, as they
 challenge the Nebraska Cornhuskers at the Bob Devaney Sports Center on
 Saturday night.
 Michigan State has won four straight games, and 10 of its last 11 to improve
 to 21-4 overall, with its latest triumph coming in convincing fashion over No.
 4 Michigan at home on Tuesday night, 75-52. The Spartans' hot streak has
 allowed them to move to 10-2 in conference, which ties them with Indiana for
 first place.
 In a Big Ten chock full of outstanding teams, Nebraska has failed to impress,
 as it sits below .500 overall (12-13) and just 3-9 in league play. The
 Cornhuskers were able to claim a home win over last-place Penn State last
 Saturday (67-53), but they fell back to their losing ways at Indiana on
 Wednesday, ending up on the wrong end of a 76-47 final.
 Michigan State dismissed Nebraska in East Lansing on Jan. 13, 66-56, to take
 an 11-6 lead in the all-time series.
 The Spartans impressed at the offensive end against Michigan earlier in the
 week, shooting 48.4 percent from the floor, but the real story was their
 ability to stifle one of the nation's top scoring squads. They held the
 Wolverines to under 40 percent field goal shooting while forcing 16 turnovers
 on their way to the 23-point statement victory. Gary Harris put on a display
 from 3-point range, shooting 5-of-9 from beyond the arc for 17 points. Derrick
 Nix was also solid with 14 points on 6-of-9 from the floor, while Keith
 Appling and Branden Dawson added 11 and 10 points, respectively. Michigan
 State is no stranger to outstanding defensive efforts, as it holds opponents
 to just 58.9 ppg on 39 percent shooting, and it scores more than enough points
 (69.9 ppg) to keep pace. The team's top scorers reside in the backcourt, with
 Appling (14.0 ppg, 4.0 apg) and Harris (12.9 ppg, .436 3PT FG percentage) both
 putting forth strong seasons. Rounding out the starting five is a solid trio
 of forwards in Dawson (10.8 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 1.0 bpg), Nix (9.4 ppg, 6.3 rpg),
 and Adreian Payne (9.3 ppg, 6.7 rpg, 1.2 bpg).
 Nebraska had its hands full on the road against one of the nation's elite
 teams on Wednesday, and it left Bloomington with a 29-point defeat by shooting
 just 36.2 percent from the floor while allowing Indiana to shoot nearly 46
 percent. It was also outscored at the foul line, 24-9, and lost the rebounding
 battle by a 36-24 margin. Dylan Talley had the only noteworthy performance
 with 16 points on 7-of-12 from the field. The Cornhuskers are oftentimes able
 to hold the opposition to low point totals (62.4 ppg), but unfortunately they
 don't do much to support that defensive effort, as they rank last in the Big
 Ten in putting up only 58.6 ppg. Talley is the team's leading scorer with 13.2
 ppg, but his poor field goal percentage (.359) has been a detriment. Ray
 Gallegos (13.0 ppg) is active from 3-point range (63-of-207), while Brandon
 Ubel mans the trenches with 11.6 ppg and 6.9 rpg.
 02/16 11:10:03 ET

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