It wasn't going to be easy for the Nebraska men's basketball team against Michigan State.
But the Huskers made it plenty hard on themselves in their Big Ten opener.
A horrific shooting performance in the first half put Nebraska in a hole it couldn't afford to be in against the No. 3 team in the nation, and Michigan State cruised to a 86-57 win Sunday in East Lansing.
"I don't think we're that bad, but I think they're that good," Nebraska coach Tim Miles said on his postgame radio show. "These guys are just really hard to play against. And I'm not happy about any of this, obviously. There's a lot of things we need to improve."
Nebraska (6-3, 0-1 Big Ten) missed 17 of its first 20 shots, falling behind by double digits less than 12 minutes into the game and trailing by as many as 18 in the first 20 minutes.
Nebraska wasn't the first team Michigan State shut down this season, and won't be the last. North Carolina had its lowest shooting percentage in program history earlier this season when it played the Spartans. Michigan State's last four opponents scored 51, 57, 45 and 63 points going into Sunday's game.
Sunday, Nebraska shot terrifically from three-point range, going 10-for-22 (45 percent).
But the Huskers were were a comatose 7-for-40 from inside the arc, and Michigan State owned a 32-8 advantage in points in the paint while winning the rebounding battle 48-34.
"They, with (6-foot-11) Jaren Jackson and everything they bring to the table, it's just so hard to score at them inside," Miles said. "I mean, they blocked nine (it was actually 11 blocked shots) and I bet they altered another four or five, and I think we have good length."
Still, it was just a 12-point Spartan lead at halftime despite Nebraska's poor play.
"So we're like 'OK, at the first media (timeout of the second half) let's just have it at eight. Let's just win it by four points," Miles said. "And it was 17 or whatever. You've got to understand that you're playing a top-three team in the country. And it doesn't have to go perfect ... I thought we had the right game plan, we just didn't capitalize on those opportunities."
James Palmer Jr. was the only Husker in double figures, finishing with 15 points. Evan Taylor had eight points and five boards, while Isaiah Roby, in his first action since spraining his left ankle against Long Beach State, finished with seven points and six rebounds off the bench.
Glynn Watson was held to six points on 2-for-11 shooting. Nebraska's centers, Jordy Tshimanga and Duby Okeke, combined for four points, four rebounds and nine fouls while playing 10 minutes apiece.
Perhaps the best news to come out of the game for Nebraska is that the Huskers won't see Michigan State again this season, barring a meeting in the Big Ten Conference Tournament.
"What's great about playing Coach (Tom) Izzo's teams is that you find out a lot about yourself in a hurry," Miles said. "Like I saw James Palmer start the game slow and end strongly. I saw Isaiah Roby start very slow, end strongly. And Glynn stuck with it. Evan got better as the game went on."
Now, the Huskers have a one-day prep for No. 12 Minnesota, which visits Pinnacle Bank Arena on Tuesday night coming off an 89-67 win over Rutgers.
"We have no time to mope," Miles said. "We've got a team just as physical coming in. And just because it's in a different environment doesn't mean we're going to play any better or worse or whatever."