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January 21, 2014

Shields returns to form to lead Huskers to upset

With eight full days off to try and regroup and recharge this past week after losing five games in a row, no Nebraska player needed the break more than Shavon Shields.

It was no coincidence that Nebraska's five-game losing streak correlated exactly with Shields' personal slump, where he averaged just 5.0 points per game while shooting 24 percent from the field and scored in double figures just once during that stretch.

A big reason for the sophomore forward's struggles was he had been playing through a knee injury he suffered in the loss at Cincinnati that noticeably hindered his ability on the court. Because he couldn't play the way he did when he was named the Big Ten and national player of the week after the first week of the season, Shields' confidence began to slip a bit as a result.

Through some heavy rehab and much needed rest this past week, though, Shields was able to get healthy and back to his old self and led the Huskers with a team-high 18 points and nine rebounds in Monday night's 68-62 upset of No. 17 Ohio State.

"It helped a lot," Shields said. "It definitely helped a lot. I got in the training room a lot and got back to 100 percent."

Head coach Tim Miles said having Shields return to the type of player that emerged as one of Nebraska's go-to guys last year as a true freshman played a huge part in the Huskers' being able to pick up their first Big Ten victory of the season and snap a 15-game losing streak against ranked teams.

"He's so determined," Miles said. "His attitude, his determination - and his legs were fresher. He had been beat up. He was playing hurt, and he wouldn't tell you that and we wouldn't tell you that. He was trying to do the right thing for the team, but you could just see he looked more fresh physically. But just his determination. I mean nobody was going to stop him. It was like that guy that we knew from last year that was going to take the next step. That was Shavon taking the next step, and we don't win this game without him."

With their co-captain leading the way, Shields' teammates said they fed off of his energy and the numerous big plays he came up with down the stretch. Along with making several key baskets late in the second half, Shields made one of the biggest plays of the night when he stepped in front of Ohio State point guard Aaron Craft and drew a charge with just under two minutes to go with NU up by four.

"I saw the old version (of Shields)," sophomore wing Terran Petteway said. "That's the Shavon I know, the one that came tonight. He played his butt off, man. I'm glad he's back, and I hope he stays."

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