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Shields, Huskers upset No. 11 Michigan State on road

Shields, Huskers upset No. 11 Michigan State on road

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We can only imagine how much Tom Izzo dislikes Tim Miles now.

Miles, the Nebraska men’s basketball coach, joked how “Izzo hates me” after his Huskers had upset Izzo’s Michigan State team two straight times.

Make it three.

And maybe forget the joking part, now, too.

Senior forward Shavon Shields scored 28 points, and Nebraska made a 13-0 second-half run hold up and hung on for a 72-71 victory at No. 11 Michigan State on Wednesday in East Lansing, Michigan.

Nebraska (12-8, 4-3 Big Ten Conference) won its fourth straight game, while Michigan State (16-4, 3-4) has lost three straight for the first time since 2013.

"There's blood in the water right now," Izzo said after the game. "The sharks are coming."

NU stopped a 10-game losing streak to ranked teams that dated to the final regular-season game of 2014 against Wisconsin. The Huskers have won three straight conference road games for the first time since defeating Texas A&M, Colorado and Iowa State in consecutive trips in the 1997-98 season.

“We've got a great group of guys in the locker room, and I think everyone’s fully bought into what we’re doing,” Shields said on Nebraska’s postgame radio show. “That helps me, personally. We've just got to keep building from here.”

Shields was 12-of-20 from the floor and missed the final 4:24 of the first half after being helped off the floor when he suffered what he said was a bruise.

“I hit my back on something down there on the baseline,” he said. “It kind of scared me more than anything.”

Freshman guard Glynn Watson scored 13 points, and junior guard Tai Webster had 10 for Nebraska, while the team’s leading scorer on the season, junior guard Andrew White, was held to seven points in 19 minutes while battling foul trouble.

White sat the final 7:50 of the first half after getting his second foul, and picked up his fourth with 16:25 remaining in the game. He returned with 7:04 remaining but didn't score in the second half.

And Nebraska still won.

“We kind of found our way, and the younger guys found their way defensively and on offense,” Shields said. “And that’s helped us tremendously.”

It wasn’t like the Huskers caught Michigan State on an off night, either.

Senior guard Denzel Valentine scored 24 points, and the Spartans were 11-of-18 on three-pointers.

"Don't blame my players; blame me," Izzo said. "I'm the one that's got to get us to play. We're going through a little mid-life crisis here, and we're going to find a way to get out of it."

After Shields made a floater in the lane over Valentine for a four-point lead with 17 seconds to play, Valentine made a leaning, acrobatic three-pointer to pull Michigan State to 72-71.

But Valentine missed a good perimeter look as the buzzer sounded after Webster had missed the front end of a one-and-one with 5.2 seconds to play, and Nebraska held on.

“Kids played great, really played great. What a fun college basketball game,” said Miles, who credited first-year assistant coach Phil Beckner for the scouting and game plan against Michigan State.

“I thought he did a great job having our guys in place,” Miles said. “Phil’s greatest impact on our program has been his conceptual talk of, through our motion, how to space better. He’s really improved our spacing, and tonight we got some driving lanes or some threes, because of our space.”

Freshman wing Jack McVeigh had two such three-pointers, both from the left corner on assists from Shields and Webster, and both during a game-deciding 13-0 run.

Valentine’s three-pointer had given the Spartans their biggest lead, 56-51, but Shields’ driving shot started Nebraska’s run.

Nebraska outscored Michigan State 32-24 in the paint and battled on the boards, with Michigan State holding a 38-32 advantage. Freshman Michael Jacobson led Nebraska with eight rebounds, Webster had seven and McVeigh six.

“Against these guys, you’ve got to play volleyball some,” Miles said, “because they’re just so long and athletic that you’ve got to do whatever you can to keep the ball alive and out of their hands and hope that we’re in there cleaning up.”

Nebraska used a 12-0 run in the first half to build a 21-14 lead with 11:54 remaining. White started the run with a three-pointer and scored in transition, Shields scored on consecutive drives, Watson hit a three-pointer and Shields made one of two free throws.

Michigan State answered with an 8-0 run and eventually built a 33-29 lead, but Webster had back-to-back driving baskets, Watson hit a mid-range jumper, and Nebraska came up with a stop before the buzzer to force a 33-33 halftime tie.

Nebraska hosts Michigan on Saturday at 1 p.m. The Huskers can equal their last season win totals — both overall and in conference play — by beating the only Big Ten team they have yet to defeat since joining the league in 2011 (aside from Maryland, which joined last season).

“It’s hard to handle success, so I think the biggest thing we need to do is see where we need to get better at and keep coming with a worker’s mentality, and underdog mentality,” Shields said. “If we do that and don’t get too ahead of ourselves or too high on ourselves, I think we’ll be all right.”

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As I watched Glynn Watson pull up for jumpers and Jack McVeigh hit three-pointers from the corner and Michael Jacobson corral a team-high eight rebounds against a stout Michigan State front line, I couldn’t help but remember my November conversation with Beau Reid about Nebraska’s freshmen.

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