Joshua Langford, Aaron Henry help Michigan State basketball end skid, 66-56
Feb 12, 2021
EAST LANSING — It was hard to tell Saturday night which team at Breslin Center was coming off the COVID-19 shutdown.
Michigan State basketball’s offensive struggles returned in abundance, with poor shot selection, stagnant ball movement and sloppy turnovers. Nebraska continued to fight and find a second and third wind, even after falling behind by 16 points early in the second half.
The Spartans summoned up enough from Aaron Henry and Joshua Langford to escape the feisty Cornhuskers, getting 34 points and 10 rebounds between them to overcome another lackluster performance in a 66-56 victory. It snapped MSU’s four-game losing streak.
Langford had 18 points on 7 of 12 shooting, including 4 of 6 on 3-pointers. He added five rebounds. Henry scored 16 on 6 of 14 shooting with six rebounds, five assists, two steals and two blocks. Each had three turnovers.
Gabe Brown’s return from COVID-19 helped energize the Spartans with six points and seven rebounds in 18 minutes, including a second-half put-back dunk and a blocked shot. But beyond those three, MSU (9-7, 3-7 Big Ten) looked lackadaisical for long stretches and listless for others.
Joey Hauser went scoreless and fouled out in 14 minutes of play, with just over 4 minutes to play and MSU’s lead at nine. The 6-foot-9 junior grabbed one rebound and turned it over twice, including a charge for his fifth foul.
Rocket Watts sat the final 11:54 after committing five turnovers in 16 minutes, making 2 of 5 shots with three assists. The Spartans turned the ball over a season-worst 22 times that led to 17 points for the Cornhuskers, who also had a 36-16 scoring edge in the paint.
MSU shot 39% from the field, including 6 of 23 from 3-point range (26.1%).
The Spartans host Penn State at 7 p.m. Tuesday, the second of three straight games scheduled at home. The Spartans avoided coach Tom Izzo’s second five-game losing streak in his 26-season Hall of Fame career.
Nebraska (4-8, 0-5) hadn’t played in 26 days due to a COVID-19 outbreak that affected nine players, coach Fred Hoiberg, two assistant coaches, a graduate assistant and a student manager. All tested positive since the Spartans’ 84-77 win in Lincoln, Nebraska on Jan. 2.
Trey McGowens scored 13 points and Lat Mayan 10 for the Cornhuskers, who shot better than 46% in the second half and overcame 17 turnovers of their own to keep the game close into the final minute. Nebraska made 11 of 24 free throws and went 3 of 17 on 3-pointers.
The Spartans got blasted 67-37 at Rutgers on Jan. 28 in their return from a 20-day layoff between games with their own COVID-19 issues.
MSU’s feel-good 84-78 loss Tuesday at No. 8 Iowa faded fast against the Cornhuskers, playing their first game since a Jan. 10 loss to Indiana. The Spartans scored the first seven before Nebraska countered with a 12-4 run to take a lead, as MSU committed six turnovers in that stretch.
The Cornhuskers’ legs started to wobble late in the half, as the Spartans ripped off an 18-6 run to take a 34-22 lead into halftime. MSU made 7 of its last 12 shots, while Nebraska went 1 for 10.
But the Spartans continued their sloppy play in the second half after building a 16-point lead. Nebraska cut it to seven with 8:53 to play, but Langford drilled a 3-pointer and Henry collected a steal and dunk, then hit a jumper as part of an 8-1 run.
Junior forward Thomas Kithier was not on the bench in the second half for MSU after a scoreless 7 minutes in the first half. Parents were not in the stands at Breslin Center as well.
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