LINCOLN — Nebraska tried one more time Saturday night to wake up the echoes in the house that Bob Devaney built.
The Huskers pounded long and hard on the upset door against Devaney’s former school — No. 8 Michigan State, a team on an arc to reach the Final Four with its strong play of late.
A crowd of 11,947 for the third-to-last game at the Devaney Center and to see Tyronn Lue’s Hall of Fame induction roared as NU closed a deficit that had been as big as 11 points to one with 14 minutes to play.
The Spartans countered with superior physical firepower from there to claim a 73-64 victory.
MSU (22-4, 11-2) outrebounded NU 42-24, blocked 12 shots and harried NU’s second-leading scorer, Ray Gallegos, into missing all 13 of his field-goal tries.
Nebraska (12-14, 3-10) hung around by getting a career-high 28 points from senior guard Dylan Talley and 19 points and 13 rebounds from Shavon Shields — the first double-double from a Husker freshman since Aleks Maric in 2005.
But more game details can wait.
First, take notice of what Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said of first-year Nebraska coach Tim Miles.
“I just think he’s the guy for your program,” Izzo said. “This guy has got energy. I’ve been on the road with him in recruiting. He’s phenomenal. He’s got a great personality.
“And I think he’s a damn good coach. It’s hard to have all those things and still be a damn good coach.”
Izzo called Miles earlier this season after Miles claimed his first Big Ten victory. It was a gesture former Big Ten coaching legends Bob Knight and Gene Keady made toward Izzo when he started.
“Tim is going to do a good job here,” Izzo said.
Time will tell if that forecast comes true. For now, Nebraska has to try to do the best it can with what it has, which is eight scholarship players and an NCAA tourney drought about to hit 15 years.
“We don’t have much margin for error if we’re going to win that game,” Miles said. “Unfortunately, just a few things went wrong and it doomed us.”
Nebraska, which never led, trailed by 11 points midway through the first half, but closed to 29-24 at halftime — something Miles called “a minor miracle.”
“I didn’t think we played offense that well. We didn’t rebound at all,” he said. “But they turned it over 10 times. I felt like that was the only reason we were hanging around.”
Things looked more promising for the Huskers once Shields got going.
The 6-foot-6 wing, scoreless in the first half, poured in 12 points in the first six minutes of the second half.
“He was great,” Miles said. “He’s fun to watch when he gets going like that, isn’t he? I just kept running stuff for him because I was having a blast watching him.”
Izzo wasn’t. Shields’ fourth basket in nine possessions cut the Michigan State lead to 41-40, so Izzo called time.
“I threatened them,” he said. “I’m half kidding. Maybe a quarter kidding. We weren’t guarding. We were slacking off.”
Izzo said he worried about the Nebraska game since his team destroyed No. 3 Michigan 75-52 last Tuesday. The Huskers were the “sandwich opponent” between Michigan and No. 1 Indiana this Tuesday.
“You can get happy with success with a win like (Michigan),” said MSU forward Derrick Nix, who had 13 points and 11 rebounds.
“But our coaches do a good job with that. They hold you accountable every day. It gets tiring, but that’s what we’re there for.”
After that timeout and MSU putting freshman guard Gary Harris on Shields, the Spartans boosted that 41-40 lead to 61-46 with 3:52 to play. Point guard Keith Appling led MSU with 16 points, while center Adreian Payne added 15 points and 14 rebounds.
Talley tried to get Nebraska back in it with eight of his 28 points late, but the Huskers couldn’t get closer than nine.
Nebraska fell to 0-8 against ranked opponents — in part, Miles said, because teams like Michigan State headed to a 16th straight NCAA appearance know how to win.
“Michigan State has got a Hall of Fame coach and a great program,” he said. “That’s why they are Michigan State and tied for first in the league. They were a little vulnerable tonight, but still found a way to win.”
Contact the writer: