When Branden Dawson takes flight, he reaches a rarified air only few can meet.
But for one scary moment Sunday night, it appeared as if Dawson’s soaring days might be numbered.
After falling to the ground, clutching his knee and letting out a guttural scream while being fouled on a fast break layup attempt, Dawson glumly left the court, leaving some wondering if he’d destroyed the same anterior cruciate ligament, or ACL, he had spent months rehabilitating.
The answer came quickly.
In a matter of minutes Dawson sprinted out of the locker room to the Spartans bench and checked back into the game.
His return combined with explosive performances from centers Adreian Payne and Derrick Nix to spark the Spartans, lifting the No. 22 MSU men’s basketball team (14-3 overall, 3-1 Big Ten) to a 66-56 victory over Nebraska (9-8, 0-4) Sunday night at Breslin Center.
Nix led the way with 17 points and five rebounds, while Dawson tallied 12 points and six rebounds and Payne added 14 points off the bench.
An 11-2 run from Nebraska helped the Cornhuskers take the lead, 23-19, with 7:58 to go in the first half, a lead they would maintain for most of the rest of the period, until a pair of Nix free throws evened the score at 32 going into halftime.
The game remained close throughout, as neither team was able to secure a lead of more than five points for the first 13 minutes of the second half.
With the game in doubt, MSU turned to its lone senior, and Nix carried the Spartans home, scoring 11 second half points to push MSU in front for good.
Tied at 50 with 6:50 remaining, MSU closed the game on a 16-6 run, capped off by a emphatic two-handed alley-oop dunk by Dawson.