By Patrick Cooley – Sports Editor
While the state school in Lincoln will soon be making the yearly trip to East Lansing, Mich., Monday night it was UNO coach Derrin Hansen’s men’s basketball team that had the honors.
The Mavs lost 102-72 to the No. 2 Michigan State Spartans in front of 14,759 fans at the Breslin Center. Junior Mitch Albers led UNO with 14 points on 6-14 shooting from the field and senior Torrian Harris added 13 points and five rebounds in the losing effort.
The game was a family reunion of sorts for Harris, whose half-brother Draymond Green is a junior forward for coach Tom Izzo’s Spartans. The versatile Green finished with 16 points, four rebounds, four assists, and three steals including 2-4 shooting from three-point range.
It was Hansen who first proposed the exhibition game to head coach Tom Izzo and the Spartans. Ultimately the family connections between the brothers were enough for the game to become a reality.
“It was great for Torrian, first and for our kids, second,” said Hansen. “It was a great experience for [Harris and Green], but yeah it was [also] a recruiting thing. We’ve had the opportunity to play Division I teams before and kids want to play in those games. It’s great for [our players] to play in those games and play in that environment.”
Harris and Green grew up playing with each other in Saginaw Mich., but Monday’s game was the first time the two brothers had been on opposing teams.
“It was real fun,” said Harris. “We never actually played against one another, we were always on the same team. For a lot of my family, they’ve never been able to come down to Omaha to see me play, so it was nice having them there.”
Despite Green’s 6-foot-6-inch height, his versatility allowed the brothers to match-up against one another. Both took full advantage of the opportunity.
“There was a lot of trash talk, but it was mostly friendly trash talk,” said Harris. “He plays on the wing a lot now so I got a chance to talk back to him. He’s a tremendous competitor and he loves to compete. He’ll give you 100 percent all the time.”
Both coaches helped jump-start the reunion by allowing the brothers to jump center against one another.
“Coach kept telling me I was going to jump, but I didn’t know if he was serious about it,” said Harris. “Draymond asked his coach and he let him.”
Green won the tip, but not without a bit of controversy.
“He jumped pretty quick and stole the tip from me,” said Harris. “He got it, but he cheated.”
The second encounter between the brothers came at the 9:59 mark in the first half when Green stole the ball from his brother and converted a fast-break dunk, giving the Spartans a 18-15 lead and Green room to boast over his sibling.
“I hate to give him a turnover on his stats,” said Green in a postgame video interview on Michigan State’s website. “But at the same time that’s bragging rights – I took it from him. It feels good to make that play happen.”
Harris seemed to see it differently.
“I think I got fouled before he actually stole it,” said Harris. “I don’t think he’ll ever let that one down. I’ll have to hear [about] that [steal] forever, so I’m just preparing to hear it for the rest of my life.”
The Mavs hung with the Spartans early, even taking a 15-14 lead at one point in the first half, but ultimately the Spartans were too much.
“I know size and athleticism will take over eventually,” said Hansen. “But I really liked how we battled.”
The Mavs’ 30-point loss was 12 points better than Division II Saginaw Valley State, which lost to the Spartans 88-44 on Nov. 2.
“I liked our effort,” said Hansen. “We got outscored 16 points over 34 minutes and got outscored 14 points over a four-minute span right before the half. It was that big run right before the half that really gave them that separation.”
The Mavs are back in action this Saturday as they take on the Nebraska Wesleyan Prairie Wolves. Tip-off is set for 4 p.m. at Sapp Fieldhouse.