Toney McCray and Bo Spencer combined for 29 points, but Keith Appling scored eight of his 14 points in a late second-half run, as No. 16 Michigan State pulled out a 68-55 win at Nebraska Saturday afternoon.
McCray and Spencer led the Huskers’ comeback, as Nebraska (8-5, 0-2 Big Ten) chipped away at a 15-point lead to pull within 53-50 after a Spencer 3-pointer with 8:43 left.
Appling then took over, scoring six straight points, as the sophomore hit a driving jumper and then a layup before his two free throws with 4:39 left gave the Spartans (13-2, 2-0 Big Ten) a 59-50 lead. Nebraska would make one last run, as a 3-pointer from McCray, who finished with 14 points and six rebounds before fouling out, and two Spencer free throws made it a four-point game with 3:57 left.
That would be as close as Nebraska would get, as Appling found Austin Thornton for a 3-pointer before the sophomore guard hit two free throws with 1:07 left to put the Spartans up 64-54. Appling finished with 14 points and four assists for MSU, which has won 13 straight games.
The Spartans went 19-of-21 from the foul line, including a perfect 12-for-12 in the second half and enjoyed a 38-24 advantage on the glass.
Spencer came off the bench to lead Nebraska with 15 points, including a trio of 3-pointers, as Nebraska, playing without two of its top three scorers because of injuries, shot 36 percent from the field, including 7-of-25 from 3-point range.
The Huskers played some of their best basketball of the season in the opening 20 minutes, taking a 30-29 lead to the locker room. McCray keyed the hot start with six early points, as Nebraska eventually built a 12-4 lead after Spencer hit back-to-back 3-pointers. NU was stout defensively early on, forcing the Spartans to miss eight of first their nine shots from the floor and shoot 39 percent in the first half.
Michigan State came right back, using a 10-2 run behind the inside game of Draymond Green and Derrick Nix to pull even at 14 before two free throws from Brandon Richardson and a Caleb Walker 3-pointer gave NU a 19-14 lead.
Nebraska eventually pushed the lead to 28-21 after a Brandon Ubel basket, but MSU closed the half on an 8-2 spurt to get within 30-29 at the break.
Green, who finished with a game-high 19 points and eight rebounds, took over in the opening minutes of the second half, scoring 11 points in a 20-4 Spartan surge in the first 6:30 of the second half to give the visitors a 49-35 advantage.
Trailing 53-39, Nebraska relied on its defense to get back in the game, holding MSU without a field goal for nearly five minutes to mount a comeback, as McCray’s basket began a run of 11 straight points to make it one-possession game.
The Huskers return to action on Tuesday night when they travel to No. 2 Ohio State. Tipoff is at 5:30 p.m.