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Michigan State hoops opens Big Ten play by blowing out Nebraska, 86-57

Chris Solari, Detroit Free Press on

Published in Basketball

EAST LANSING, Mich. -- Nick Ward didn't need much time to do almost all of his damage. He also didn't realized he only played 16 minutes.

Michigan State's sophomore forward scored 22 points and grabbed seven rebounds in his limited time, and the third-ranked Spartans held Nebraska without a field goal for more than 8 minutes of the first half en route to a 86-57 victory Sunday at Breslin Center.

"I just tried to play my game the best way I can and give my team what I can," Ward said. "You know, I didn't know -- I just played. I had no idea I just played 16 minutes, I wasn't even paying attention. ... Less minutes, I gotta do what I can for my team."

It was the Big Ten opener for both the Spartans (7-1, 1-0) and Cornhuskers (6-3, 0-1).

Freshman Jaren Jackson Jr. had a double-double with 15 points and 10 rebounds as well as three blocked shots. Cassius Winston finished with 16 points, six rebounds and seven assists, while sophomore Miles Bridges scored 12.

Still, MSU coach Tom Izzo was not happy with his team's overall performance and lack of aggressiveness, despite shooting 47.4 percent and holding Nebraska to just 27.4 percent in a 29-point win.

"We could've won by less and played better," Izzo said, "and I would've been happier."

After going to the bench without a touch during the first 2 minutes and 42 seconds of the game, Ward returned and scored 12 points in the final 12:32 of the opening half.

It continued after halftime. He scored six points as the Spartans dashed off a 17-8 pull-away run.

The 6-foot-8 forward made 6 of 7 shots from the floor had a strong game at the free-throw line, going 10-for-13 while aggressively drawing contact near the basket.

"Nick made big plays," Bridges said. "It was just him being aggressive on offense and defense."

 

Bridges went scoreless in the second half after making 4 of 9 shots to help the Spartans to a comfortable 38-26 halftime lead. One of them was a two-hand dunk on a baseline drive after MSU got two offensive rebounds in the same possession.

The 6-7 swingman missed the three shots he took after halftime. Bridges had six rebounds and a steal but no assists in a team-high 29 minutes.

Izzo said afterward that the Spartans wanted Bridges, who finished 1 of 4 from 3-point range, to go to the basket more instead of settling for shots outside.

MSU owned the Cornhuskers in the paint, outscoring them, 16-2, in the opening 20 minutes and getting 15 second-chance points while holding Nebraska without an offensive rebound.

For the game, the Spartans finished with a 32-8 edge in points in the paint. They also had a 48-34 rebounding advantage, with Nebraska getting all 10 of its offensive boards in the second half.

MSU also went 27 for 36 at the free-throw line, both season highs for the Spartans. The Spartans also had a season-low six turnovers.

"We didn't turn the ball over and we got to the free-throw line," Winston said. "Those are some of the things on our list that we gotta work on."

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