EAST LANSING, Mich. — Nebraska made a second straight run at a major upset in men's basketball Sunday night before falling 66-56 to No. 22 Michigan State.
Four days earlier, the Huskers hung within single digits of No. 2 Michigan deep into the second half.
This time, they were tied with MSU at halftime, held a one-point lead with 13 minutes left, were tied with 6:47 left, and were down one point inside the final two minutes.
But Spartans guard Gary Harris, who missed his first 10 shots, hit his 11th — a 3-pointer — with 1:51 left for a 58-54 lead. MSU (14-3, 3-1 Big Ten) then stole the ball from Nebraska (9-8, 0-4) on consecutive possessions to secure the win.
“Our guys battled hard,” NU coach Tim Miles said. “But we want to win. The kids in the locker room, their guts are turned inside out because of it.”
Still, Miles is seeing signs of growth.
“Like I told them,” he said, “if you believe in process, you have to believe we're going in the right direction.
“If you're a shallow person and only need a win to get you over the top, then we're going to have problems. But you can't live that way right now. You've got to battle and stay with the course and we'll be OK.”
Nebraska played without senior forward Brandon Ubel, its top rebounder and No. 3 scorer, because of a fractured elbow. Backup point guard Mike Peltz (knee surgery) is out for the season.
That led to a revised lineup, with wing David Rivers getting his first career start. The 6-foot-7 sophomore from Little Rock, Ark., took advantage.
He made every shot he took — 8 of 8 field goals and his lone free throw — on his way to 18 points with six rebounds.
His banked-in 3-pointer put NU ahead 32-28 late in the first half. And it was his basket with 6:47 to go that forged a 50-50 tie.
“Dave Rivers, in my mind, had a career night,” Miles said. “I know he scored more in another game, but my goodness, in a Big Ten environment like this he was really, really good.”
So was senior Dylan Talley, who moved to point guard. The 6-5, 216-pounder produced 17 points, eight rebounds, four assists and one turnover.
“A lot of good things went on,” Miles said. “It just wasn't enough to win.”
The biggest thing that kept Nebraska from its first road win against a ranked team in five years (65-59 at No. 22 Texas A&M) was Michigan State's biggest players.
Centers Adreian Payne and Derrick Nix combined to make 12 of 15 shots, score 31 points and snare eight rebounds. Husker center Andre Almeida, in 24 minutes, went scoreless and had five rebounds.
“Andre goes 0 for 4,” Miles said. “I'm not throwing anybody under the bus, but we need more than that out of Andre. He had a layup and missed it, and had another inside shot and missed. Two or three hoops would have been all right.”
Despite the loss, Nebraska scored its Big Ten high of 56 points while holding Michigan State under its average.
“We scored 56 points,” Miles said. “OK, big deal. But most people probably expected us to score 36 tonight. Our kids are staying on it. If we stay with it, we'll be all right.”
NOTES: Walk-on Jordan Tyrance was one of the first substitutions. He earned Miles’ praise for his two blocks, two assists and one rebound in 12 minutes. His playing time for the season before Sunday was 13 minutes. ... The Huskers’ next game is Wednesday at home at 8 p.m. against Purdue.