EAST LANSING, Mich. -- James Palmer Jr. had a team-high 15 points, but NU was unable to slow down third-ranked Michigan State’s frontline in a 86-57 loss Sunday afternoon.
Palmer led the Huskers with 15 and three assists, but Nebraska (6-3, 0-1 Big Ten) shot just 27.4 percent on the day in the Big Ten opener for both teams.
Nick Ward and Jaren Jackson combined for 37 points, 17 rebounds and six blocked shots, as Ward keyed a decisive first-half run for the hosts.
Ward finished with a game-high 22 points, including 10-of-13 from the line, and seven boards while Jackson finished with 15 points, 10 rebounds and three blocks, as MSU (7-1, 1-0 Big Ten) put four players in double figures.
Nebraska survived a tough shooting first half with a late run to pull within 38-26 at the break. Palmer had nine points and two assists, but Nebraska went just 6-of-24 from the field in the opening 20 minutes. NU, which battled foul trouble for most of the first half, were unable to control the glass, as Jordy Tshimanga played just five minutes because of foul trouble.
The Huskers were within 18-12 after a pair of Tshimanga free throws with 9:40 left in the half, but the Spartans ran off six straight points, including four from Nick Ward, to extend the lead to 24-12 and force a Husker timeout. In all, Ward tallied eight of his 10 first-half points as part of a 16-4 Spartan run, as MSU built its largest lead at 34-16 after a Miles Bridges 3-pointer.
Bridges and Ward had 12 points apiece in the first half.
Nebraska started to heat up in the final minutes of the half, using a 7-2 run to close the half, as Roby’s 3-pointer helped the visitors cut a 17-point deficit to 12 at the break.
Nebraska was within 47-34 after a Palmer 3-pointer with 18:08, but the Spartans ran off eight straights to push the lead to 21 after a Xavier Tillman basket, as both Tshimanga and Duby Okeke were saddled with four fouls.
Nebraska continued to battle, running off five straight points to get within 55-39 after a 3-pointer from Roby and a jumper by Evan Taylor. NU was within 60-44, but the Spartans, who went 16-of-17 from the line in the second half, pulled away in the final 10 minutes.
The Huskers return home on Tuesday night, as they host No. 12 Minnesota. Tipoff at PBA is set for 8 p.m.