EAST LANSING, Mich. -- Senior center Derrick Nix scored 17 points as the Michigan State Spartans downed the shorthanded Nebraska Cornhuskers 66-56 at Breslin Center on Sunday.
Adreian Payne had 14 points for the No. 18 Spartans (14-3 overall, 3-1 Big Ten), who have won nine of their last 10. Sophomore forward Brandon Dawson had 12 points despite briefly leaving the court after suffering a left leg injury with 14:01 remaining. Sophomore swingman David Rivers had 18 points for Nebraska (9-8, 0-4), which has lost four straight.
The Cornhuskers played without leading rebounder Brandon Ubel, who suffered an elbow fracture against Michigan on Wednesday. Junior guard Mike Peltz was declared out for the season on Friday because of a knee injury.
Payne energized the home crowd early in the second half when he fought for a loose ball on the floor and later dunked in Drew Valentine's missed jumper. He hit his first 3-pointer of the season and second of his career on Michigan State's next trip for a 39-38 Michigan State lead.
The crowd let out another roar when Dawson, who tore the ACL in his left knee late last season, returned to the floor with 1:12 remaining. That didn't deter Nebraska, which continued to hang around even though Nix took control underneath. He had a three-point play, a layup and a tip-in in quick order, each time after a Cornhuskers basket.
Nebraska was still within one before Spartans freshman Gary Harris made a 3-pointer for a 58-54 advantage with 1:51 remaining. Nix and Harris then made free throws to close out the victory.
The Cornhuskers averaged just 44 points in their three prior conference games but went to the locker room tied 32-32 at halftime Sunday.
Rivers, a sophomore swingman making his first start in 36 career games, justified coach Tim Miles' decision with 12 first-half points. He had five during a late 7-0 run, including a putback and a banked-in 3-pointer, to give the Cornhuskers a 32-28 advantage. Dawson, who had 10 first-half points, ended Nebraska's spurt with a dunk, and Nix tied it on Michigan State's final possession with two free throws.
Notes: Michigan State led the all-time series 10-6 before Sunday, and Nebraska hadn't beaten the Spartans since Dec. 10, 1994. ... The Spartans had won 27 of their last 28 at Breslin Center. ... Michigan State outrebounded 15 of its previous 16 opponents this season. It ranked No. 18 nationally with a plus 8.5 rebounding margin. ... Cornhuskers freshman forward Shavon Shields is the son of former Cornhusker and Kansas City Chiefs All-Pro offensive lineman Will Shields. ... Before Sunday, the Spartans were holding opponents to 57.8 points on 37.4 percent shooting, second best in the Big Ten in both categories. ... The Cornhuskers play three of their next four at home, while the Spartans go on the road three of their next four games.