If you happened to catch a glimpse of Nebraska’s 66-56 loss to No. 18 Michigan State, you may have thought Tim Miles was less than thrilled on the sidelines at the game’s conclusion.
The Spartans were well on their way to an eight-point victory against the Huskers with the game, then, under five seconds to play. However, it seemed their shooters weren’t satisfied with the single-digit win as MSU shooters Keith Appling and Brandon Dawson connected for an alley-oop in the final seconds to pick up their 14th win of the season.
Although it may have appeared Miles was upset with Michigan State’s play call to close out the game, the Husker coach said after the game that wasn’t the case.
“The dunk is part of it,” Miles said. “I’ve been through it, I’ve been an NAIA coach, and I’ve been through it a lot of different ways. We were out running around pressing them, so why not?”
However, Michigan State coach Tom Izzo wasn’t as accepting of his player’s decision to end the game off the rim.
“Let me tell you about my pet peeve, first of all,” Izzo said. “I talked to Coach Miles about it afterwards, and he was cool about it. The lob dunk at the end — I hate that.”
And the Spartan coach’s comments on the game didn’t stop there.
Izzo also gave praise for Nebraska’s (9-8, 0-4 Big Ten Conference) play, despite the loss of its leading rebounder Brandon Ubel.
“They did a hell of a job and made some shots that they don’t usually make from the guard positions,” he said. “I was disappointed with our performance and yet very respectful of what Nebraska did.”
Despite losing their fourth-straight conference match, Nebraska did have positive signs to take away from its Sunday contest, including a breakout performance by sophomore guard David Rivers.
“I thought that David has practiced well,” Miles said. “He’s done what we’ve asked him to do. We were looking for a little bit of a different line up with Dylan (Talley) at the point guard.”
Rivers hard work in the gym was reflected during the game, as he’d go on to the steal the show succeeding game’s tipoff.
The 6-foot-7-inch player, who started his first collegiate game of his career, surged to a 6-for-6 shooting performance in the first half. His team-high 12 points aided Nebraska to a 32 point tie heading into the locker room.
Rivers’ stellar offensive play after the break only reinvigorated the coach’s decision to keep him on the court in the second half.
The guard would continue to perform one of the best games of his career, finishing with a team-high 18 points and six rebounds, while playing all 40 minutes of the game. The outstanding performance was two shy from his career-high 20 points set against Central Michigan Dec. 22.
The leading play by Rivers made his coach proud, Miles said.
“I think David Rivers got more time but he earned more time,” Miles said. “I believe in David, I believe he can do good things for us. I think he showed tonight that he’s a capable player.”
Rivers’ superb 8-for-8 field goal shooting was also one shy of Nebraska’s single-game record for shots made without a miss.
Freshman guard Shavon Shields also led the forefront, scoring seven of the Husker’s first 10 points to start the game. Shields finished the matchup with nine points and six rebounds.
Although the team is still unsure how they’ll fare with Ubel’s athleticism resting on the bench, Miles said he’s impressed with the productivity he’s seen from Shields and Rivers thus far.
“We’re putting them in those positions because I do trust those guys,” he said. “I’ve been impressed that they’ve come along and keep getting better. I like their attitudes.”