LINCOLN — It was more a matter of belief than a bold prediction Friday from Nebraska's Brandon Ubel.
The senior forward matter-of-factly stated that before season's end, the Huskers (12-13, 3-9) will knock off a ranked opponent.
“We're going to get one,'' Ubel said. “We've been playing well. We thought we had Ohio State. We got the win against Penn State.
“We've been talking that there is something about the Devaney and a ranked team coming in here that we're going to get one and get on a roll.''
Nebraska may be down to its last chance for such a victory in the 37-year-old Devaney Center, which will be converted to a volleyball arena.
Eighth-ranked Michigan State on Saturday night is one of three remaining home games. The other two foes — Iowa and Minnesota — aren't likely to be in the Top 25.
Ubel has been on the Devaney Center floor before for big upsets: against No. 3 Texas, No. 13 Texas A&M and No. 22 Missouri.
But picking off Michigan State (21-4, 10-2), the co-leader in the Big Ten, is a tall task.
The Spartans are coming off a 75-52 dismantling of No. 3 Michigan, and have won 10 of their past 11 games. They are headed to a 16th straight NCAA tournament under coach Tom Izzo.
“Michigan State has always been a team that as the season goes on gets better and better,'' Ubel said. “For whatever reason, Coach Izzo gets them playing better in February than in January, and better in March than in February.
“I don't expect them to be down from their level of play against Michigan.''
On Jan. 13, Nebraska lost at Michigan State 66-56. NU was tied with MSU at halftime, held a one-point lead with 13 minutes to go and was within one point entering the final two minutes.
Ubel didn't play in that game because of a fractured elbow, but he helped coach from the bench.
“We were really focused, really determined and played extremely hard,'' he said. “We were a little mismatched down low most of the game, but that didn't really stop us from trying to slow down what they were trying to do.''
Husker forward David Rivers, making his first career start that night, had 18 points and six rebounds. The Spartans got a combined 31 points from big men Derrick Nix and Adreian Payne.
“We were able to limit their possessions and not give them anything easy,'' Ubel said. “We've got to replicate that here at home.”
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