EAST LANSING, Michigan — Shavon Shields earned a day of rest.
Shields scored 28 points, playing through hip pain, and Denzel Valentine missed a shot near the top of the key just before the buzzer to allow Nebraska to hold on for a 72-71 win over No. 11 Michigan State on Wednesday night.
"He got banged pretty hard," Cornhuskers coach Tim Miles said. "The first thing he said to me after the game is, 'Coach, I'm going to need the day off.' He never asks for a day off, so I knew he was hurting."
The Cornhuskers (12-8, 4-3 Big Ten) have won four straight, three on the road. They've also won three straight against the Spartans.
"That's really big for our program," Shields said. "They're a great team."
Michigan State (17-4, 3-4) has lost three straight and suddenly looks nothing like the top-ranked team it was earlier in the season.
"There's blood in the water right now," Spartans coach Tom Izzo said. "The sharks are coming."
Shields, who left the game with a hip injury in the first half and came back to play after halftime, made a shot to put Nebraska ahead by eight points with 2:31 left.
"I honestly didn't think I could play," he said.
Nebraska's Glynn Watson scored 13 and Tai Webster had 10 points and missed a free throw with four seconds left that gave the Spartans an opportunity to avoid another loss, but they couldn't make the most of the opportunity.
The Spartans pulled within two with 45.8 seconds to go when Eron Harris made a 3-pointer. Shields made a floater over Valentine on the ensuing possession. Valentine's 3-pointer with 5.2 seconds left cut the deficit to one point, but he couldn't connect on one more shot to win for a second straight game after grabbing a rebound off a missed free throw and dribbling up the court.
"They deserved to win that game," Valentine said.
The senior guard also failed to make a jumper that could've given Michigan State a win Sunday at Wisconsin. Valentine finished with 24 points, six rebounds and six assists.
Deyonta Davis had 13 points and seven points for the Spartans, who made just 42 percent of their shots from the field and 12 of 21 at the line.
Nebraska: The Cornhuskers got some relatively good news at halftime when Shields was cleared to return to the game. The senior forward hurt his hip with four-plus minutes left in the first half, and had to be helped off the court as he kept weight off his right foot. Shields showed he was healthy in the second half, making a pair of go-ahead baskets in the opening minute. Midway through the second half, he had his right hip stretched on the sideline before going back in the game slightly hobbled. The next time Nebraska had the ball, he scored a three-point play on a driving layup and free throw to put Nebraska ahead 64-56 with eight-plus minutes left. Shields left the game again, briefly, to get his hip stretched before going back on the court. "I just told him at halftime, 'If you don't feel like you can go, you're not letting us down,'" Miles recalled. "But boy, did he go."
Michigan State: The Spartans are struggling in part because Bryn Forbes has lost his shooting touch, especially at home. He was 1 of 8 against Nebraska and scored three points, one home game after going 0 for 5 and scoring just two points in a 17-point loss to Iowa. "He had good shots," Izzo said. "He won't miss those shots again. I feel sorry for that kid." Forbes had a chance to pull Michigan State within a point, but missed an open 3-pointer with just less than three minutes left. Shields made a shot on the ensuing possession to give the Cornhuskers a 68-62 lead.
Nebraska hosts Michigan on Saturday.
No. 11 Michigan State hosts No. 7 Maryland on Saturday night. "We've got to find a way to bounce back for a big game," Izzo said.
STREAKS: The Cornhuskers have won three straight conference games on the road for the first time since 1998 when they were in the Big 12. Nebraska has made at least half of its shots in four straight games for the first time since the 2007-08 season.
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