Lincoln, NE – Keith Appling scored 16 points and Adreian Payne filled out the stat sheet with 15 points and 14 rebounds to help No. 8 Michigan State outlast Nebraska, 73-64, on Saturday.
Derrick Nix also registered a double-double with 13 points and 11 boards for the Spartans (22-4, 11-2 Big Ten), who have won five straight, including knocking off rival Michigan in convincing fashion on Tuesday. Freshman Gary Harris netted 14 points on 5-of-6 shooting from the floor in the victory.
"As basketball players, you seem to get happy with success when you get a win like that," Nix said of the slow start in relation to the win versus Michigan on Tuesday. "Our coaches do a good job with that. They hold us accountable every day. It gets tiring, but that's what we signed up for. We have to keep grinding."
Dylan Talley had a game-high 28 points and Shavon Shields scored all of his 19 points in the second half, to go along with 13 rebounds for the Cornhuskers (12-14, 3-10), who have lost two straight and four of their last five games overall.
Shields brought Nebraska within 41-40 on a jumper five-plus minutes into the second half, but that's the closest the Huskers would get. Michigan State then opened things up with a 12-2 surge capped off by Nix's layup with 8 1/2 minutes remaining making it 53-42.
The visitors continued to hold their double-digit lead as the game winded down, although Shields' 3-pointer from the right wing with just 46 seconds remaining briefly closed the deficit to 68-61. MSU, though, which finished the game hitting 23-of-29 from the charity stripe, closed the contest by connecting on 5-of-6 free throws to secure the victory.
"They were energized and excited and I think they felt like they could win," Nebraska coach Tim Miles said of his team's effort. "I think they felt like they should have beaten Michigan State last time. But Michigan State, they've got a Hall of Fame coach, they've got a great program. That's why they're Michigan State, tied for first in the league, and they win a game like this tonight when they're a little vulnerable."
Harris' dunk around the midway point of the first half increased MSU's opening edge to 23-12, but the home team utilized a 9-2 swing to get within 25-21 with three minutes remaining before halftime. Each team then registered just four points apiece to close the first half, and the Spartans took a 29-24 margin into the break.
It wasn't the best 20 minutes for either team shooting wise, as MSU connected on 11-of-27 field goals, compared to 9-of-28 for the 'Huskers.
Michigan State faces current No. 1, Indiana on Tuesday with first place up for grabs in the conference ... The visitors won the rebounding battle by a margin of 42-24 ... Appling made 9-of-10 from the free throw line and Payne made 7- of-8 ... Nebraska had just four other players reach the scoreboard, all combined for a total of 17 points.