Feb. 25, 2012
EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Draymond Green reached a milestone and helped No. 6 Michigan State move a step closer to a team goal.
Green had 20 points and 10 rebounds - becoming the fourth in school history with 1,000 career rebounds - to help the sixth-ranked Spartans beat Nebraska 62-34 on Saturday night for their seventh straight victory.
"It's always about the team, but when I can join a club like that with all the greats that means a lot," he said. "Especially with a stat that's completely effort-related."
Green stayed in the lopsided game long enough to grab his 10th rebound with 5 minutes left and a 30-point lead to join Greg Kelser, Johnny Green and Antonio Smith as the only Michigan State players to reach 1,000 boards.
"I was hoping he'd get it while he's home because he deserved it," Spartans coach Tom Izzo said. "That's a very small club and one that I'm glad he got to celebrate being a part of with our fans."
The senior forward leads the nation with six 20-point, 10-rebound games.
"My guys are putting me in a great position to score," Green said. "And the way we stress rebounds around here, I have to pursue every one I can."
Undefeated at home this season, the first-place Spartans (24-5, 13-3 Big Ten) lead No. 8 Ohio State by 1 /2 games and No. 11 Michigan by two games in the conference race with three games left in the regular season for the Buckeyes, who close the season at Michigan State. Ohio State can pull back within a game by beating Wisconsin at home Sunday.
If the Spartans win Tuesday night at Indiana or next Sunday at home against Ohio State, they will earn at least a share of the Big Ten title for the third time in four years.
Another conference championship would be Izzo's seventh, making him the fifth with that many in Big Ten history. Bob Knight won 11 at Indiana to match the conference record set by Purdue's Ward "Piggy" Lambert. Fred Taylor led Ohio State to nine Big Ten titles and Wisconsin's Walter Meanwell had eight.
"It would probably be the most-earned (Big Ten title) of all of them other than maybe the first one," Izzo said. "Not that we came out of nowhere, but we weren't a ranked team and deservedly so.
"It would mean a lot to me and I think it would mean a lot to them. Our schedule has been tough. We're embarking on the fifth game in 13 days and it's going to be hard for us to play down there. If we can survive, we will have earned it. The problem is we have two of the tougher games that we've had all year left."
The last-place Cornhuskers (12-15, 4-12) have lost six of seven.
The Spartans, who led by eight at halftime, turned the game into a rout early in the second half with a 13-0 run that put them ahead 38-17.
"When they decided in the second half to really clamp down on us defensively, that's when the game got out of hand," Nebraska coach Doc Sadler said.
The Cornhuskers' chances to at least be competitive took a hit when leading scorer Bo Spencer didn't play after injuring his left ankle in the final seconds of the first half. Spencer struggled before he got hurt, missing his first four shots and being held scoreless until making his only shot of the game about 2 minutes before halftime.
Nebraska didn't have a double-digit scorer until Brandon Ubel made a 3-pointer with 6:31 remaining. Ubel finished with 13 points.
"Brandon has been put in a tough situation with his back to the basket," Sadler said. "He's just going to do the best he can do and he's going to compete."
Green was the only player to score in double figures for Michigan State, but several players contributed offensively and the Spartans shot 59 percent overall.
"Other than Draymond, nobody had a big game," Izzo said. "But we shot awfully well."
When Michigan built a big lead early in the second half, Sadler started emptying his bench to sit starters - and his players took notice.
Cornhuskers center Christopher Niemann looked at the end of the bench and said, "Get ready" to freshman forward Kye Kurkowski, who played 2 minutes in his first game last week. A few minutes later, Sadler saw senior Caleb Walker sitting next to Kurkowski and waved at the starter in disgust and walked away without putting him back in the game. Alas, Kurkowski didn't play at Michigan State.
Sadler was upset that some of his players weren't hustling back on defense after turnovers.
"I don't care what the score is, we're going to try to do it the right way," Sadler said. "And, the right way is to play as hard as you can play."
The Spartans were motivated to take control early. Green blocked a shot on the opening possession, Adreian Payne dunked the first time they had the ball and Green made a 3-pointer the next time down.
Michigan State scored the first seven points and held the Cornhuskers scoreless for nearly 5 minutes.
Spencer, who was averaging 23 points in his previous two games, couldn't create a shot for himself or have one set up by teammates as he found out just how difficult it is to be the focal point of the Spartans' defensive game plan.
The Spartans built a 12-point lead with 4:37 left in the first half but made only one more shot before halftime, allowing Nebraska to pull within eight.
Michigan State picked up its intensity on defense in the second half and was effective on offense, outscoring the Cornhuskers 39-19 after halftime and holding them to 29-percent shooting overall.
"The biggest thing is, we can't score the basketball," Sadler said. "You have to give their defense credit for that."