With both games featuring a 15+ point home favorite, it seemed like it might be an uneventful Wednesday night in the Big Ten. The presence of two big time favorites, however, creates opportunity for a big time upset, and that's exactly what happened on Wednesday night.
Let's take a look at the action.
Game of the Night: Nebraska Cornhuskers 72, Michigan State Spartans 71
In probably the biggest upset of the Big Ten so far this season, Nebraska handed Michigan State a 3rd straight loss, beating them in East Lansing by 1. The Cornhuskers rode Shavon Shields, who had 28 points despite a hip injury that cost him the last few minutes of the first half, and survived a last second attempt by Denzel Valentine to win 72-71.
Valentine finished the game with 24 points, 6 assists, and 6 rebounds. Guards Bryn Forbes and Matt McQuaid's poor shooting nights killed the Spartans as they combined to shoot just 2-14 for 5 points. Jack McVeigh's two 2nd half threes were a huge compliment to Shields' 19 2nd half points.
Denzel Valentine got the Spartans off to a quick start as he scored 11 of the team's first 14 and Tom Izzo's squad led 14-8. Just when you thought Michigan State might be able to open up a big lead, however, Nebraska answered with a 13-0 run. This opened up a 21-14 lead for the Cornhuskers. Michigan State would respond with a quick 6-0 and the rest of the half was back and forth with the teams tied at 33 after 20 minutes.
With the scored tied at half, most would have thought Denzel Valentine would take control against an inferior opponent, but it was Shields who was the star of the final 20 minutes. The senior scored 19 of his 28 points in the second half. With the two teams trading blows to start the second half, the game was tied at 56 with 10 minutes to go. This is when the Cornhuskers took control and never looked back with an 8-0 run to take a 64-56 lead. Michigan State would never get even again.
With 5 seconds left and a one point lead, Tai Webster left the door open when he missed the front end of a one and one. Valentine grabbed the rebound, and what seemed like it could be a Wooden Award moment for the senior fell short. The Michigan native dribbled down the court and crossed over Shields to take an off balance jumper for the win just inside the three point line. The shot bounced off the front rim, backboard, and out, and Nebraska rejoiced.
The Huskers have now won 4 straight Big Ten match-ups after losing their first 3. The Huskers will host Michigan on Sunday. Michigan State on the other hand falls to 3-4 in the conference with Maryland coming in to East Lansing on Saturday.
Nate Mason's career high 25 points was not enough for Minnesota to get their first conference win as they fell to Michigan 74-69. Derrick Walton and Zak Irvin carried Michigan as the only two players in double figures, scoring 41 of Michigan's 74 points. Irvin added 11 rebounds to his 19 points for a double-double.
The Wolverines kept the Golden Gophers at arms length for most of the game, with Minnesota's only lead coming at 2-0. A 9-0 run started by a Zak Irvin 3 pointer gave Michigan a 22-9 lead with 8 minutes to go in the half. The Golden Gophers were able to make it a game as they finished the half on a 10-2 run sparked by 8 quick points off the bench as Michigan took a 37-30 lead in to the half.
In the second half, the closes the Gophers would come was 52-49 with under 9 minutes to go. The Wolverines, however, ramped up the defense and did not allow Minnesota to score over the next 4 minutes. Walton Jr. would end up icing the game for John Beilein's team, as he went 8-8 from the line in the final minute, not opening the door at all for Minnesota to construct a late game comeback.
Michigan is now 4-2 in the Big Ten and will travel to Nebraska to face a hot Huskers team on Saturday. Minnesota will host Illinois on Saturday as they continue to search for their first Big Ten victory.