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01/13/2013 9:37 PM EST
Nix-led No. 22 Michigan State beats Nebraska 66-56
MICHIGAN ST 66, NEBRASKA 56

By LARRY LAGE
AP Sports Writer

EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) -- Branden Dawson was crumpled on the
ground, clutching his surgically repaired left knee.



He bounced back to play again and Derrick Nix scored 17 points
to help No. 22 Michigan State pull away for a 66-56 victory over
Nebraska on Sunday night.



The Spartans - and Dawson in particular - held their breath
early in the second half when the sophomore forward tumbled to
the court in pain. He missed the Big Ten and NCAA tournament
last season after tearing the ACL in his left knee.



"I was scared for a minute and said, `Not again,"' he recalled.



Nebraska's Ray Gallegos was called for a foul when he trailed
Dawson on his layup attempt.



"He really didn't clip me," Dawson said. "When I planted, the
knee buckled."



After Dawson was examined, he walked slowly off the court and
later was able to jog back onto it.



"All of a sudden he came out running like Superman," Michigan
State coach Tom Izzo said.



Dawson was cleared to return much to the delight of the fans,
who gave him a standing ovation with ear-to-ear grins.



"I think my smile was even bigger," Izzo said. "I was scared to
death."



Dawson showed his knee was very healthy in the final seconds,
soaring to slam an alley-oop pass from Keith Appling for the
game's final basket.



Michigan State didn't have much else to cheer about until late
in what was a closely contested game for much of the night.



"I have no idea why we looked so lethargic and why we missed so
many shots," Izzo said. "I am very disappointed in the
performance."



The Spartans (14-3, 3-1 Big Ten) have won three straight and
kept the Cornhuskers (9-8, 0-4) from winning their first
conference game this season.



Nebraska, which lost its two previous Big Ten road games to
Michigan and Ohio State by an average of 20-plus points, was
very competitive for much of the game at Michigan State.



"We're not in it for any sort of consolation prize," first-year
Cornhuskers coach Tim Miles said. "We want to win the game.



"Credit Michigan State, they made winning plays. We had a bad
shot and two turnovers late that hurt us. We don't have enough
things going our way to make errors late in the game."



Nebraska's David Rivers was put in the starting lineup and had
18 points - two points from his career high - in a breakout
performance for a player averaging 5-plus points a game.



"I was more focused," he said. "I knew someone had to step up
and it just happened to be me who made some shots."



Dylan Talley scored 17 points and Gallegos added 12 while
Cornhuskers center Andre Almeida was held scoreless. The Huskers
were without Brandon Ubel, who missed the game with an elbow
injury. The 6-foot-10 senior is Nebraska's leading rebounder and
third-leading scorer.



Spartans reserve center Adreian Payne scored 14 points,
combining with Nix to score 31 points.



"Their big kids went 12 of 15 and our center was 0 for 4," Miles
said. "We need Andre to match those guys if we're going to be
successful."



Nix broke a 50-all tie with a layup with 6:17 left and Appling
later connected on three free throws to give the Spartans a
five-point lead, matching their largest to that time. After
Nebraska pulled within a point, freshman Gary Harris responded
with a 3-pointer - after missing his first 10 shots - that put
Michigan State ahead 58-54 with 1:49 remaining during a 14-4
run.



Izzo, though, was not happy.



"They played harder than us, they coached better than us," Izzo
said. "They probably deserved to win the game in every way."



---



Follow Larry Lage on Twitter: http://twitter.com/larrylage

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