Game Notes: Texas at Mighigan St.
Texas takes care of Michigan St.
by Quinn Peterson / @QwinFNP
Michigan State (No. 12/No. 12) began the season with incredibly high expectations. While it’s certainly too early to say they’ve failed to meet them, they have struggled more than many expected, adding some importance to their final non-conference game of the season.
“It was a great team win for us,” said Texas coach Rick Barnes. “Tristan Thompson did some great things down inside. I thought in the start of the second half we really got the transition game going. Dogus Balbay had a lot to do with that.”
While most current MSU students were away for winter break, the alumni represented, filling the void in the “Izzone.” Both Texas and Michigan St. opened the contest under control, neither too antsy nor too lax. Good signs came early for Sparty as Kalin Lucas — who has been somewhat inconsistent (and hurt) thus far in the season — was aggressive and looking to score from the outset.
Unfortunately, he was the only Spartan able to find the bottom of the net. Michigan St., despite their seemingly composed play, struggled mightily from the field, going just 3-16 in the game’s early minutes.
Texas was able to find some success, on the other hand, getting to the line and getting easier looks in general. Both Barnes and Michigan St. coach Tom Izzo were generous with playing time, going 9-10 deep in the game’s first 10 minutes searching for the right mix.
By the 9:58 mark, Texas forged a 17-11 lead. It appeared as though Michigan St. might have dug themselves a hole — and did Texas a favor — going over the foul limit with 8:25 still to play in the first half. Ultimately, though, the Longhorns struggled from the line — shooting just 6-12 — and were unable to truly capitalize on the advantage.
They were, however, able to create some distance by way of turnovers and stingy D. While Texas forced 6 turnovers, Michigan St. forced 5; the difference was the ability to capitalize, and the Longhorns were far better in that regard, turning those Spartan turnovers into 9 first-half points.
That, and two consecutive fastbreaks, helped the Longhorns to a 26-17 lead with 5:26 to go in the first half. While it looked like the Spartans might go without a fight, they battled enough to keep things close. A Durrell Summers three, along with a strong, old-fashioned three-point play by Derrick Nix gave the Spartans — and the Breslin Center — a much needed jolt. At halftime, Texas led, 31-30.
Hoping to ride that same wave of momentum, Izzo’s team came out of the locker room and ran a perfect play — but Delvon Roe missed a shot from point-black range. Another missed layup on the ensuing possession, and the Longhorns were on their way to a 9-2 run to start the half. More importantly, they sucked all of the energy out of a once live arena.
“It kind of took the wind out of our sails,” said Izzo of Texas’ start to the second half.
Three threes — two by Hamilton, one by Cory Joseph — and a Tristan Thompson three-point play, officially burst it open for Texas, propelling them to a 55-40 lead. Aiding the Longhorns were the Spartans themselves, whose turnovers woes truly ran amuck — much as they have all season.
“In the second half we came out and played a lot harder on the defensive end,” said Texas forward Jordan Hamilton. “We rebounded and I thought that our defense led to our offense.”
10 second half turnovers — some because of great D, some just plain bad decisions — left Izzo with his hands on his head.
After their strong start, Texas never looked back, always supplying an answer when Michigan St tried to make a push. Solid, active defense led to a disrupted, out-of-rhythm Spartans offense, countless deflections, and kept Sparty fans quiet for the rest of the evening.
“We really tried to key in on slowing down the guards, you know, Lucas and Lucious and Summers,” said Thompson of their defensive focus coming into the game. “Slowing [them] down, their backcourt players, if we do that it should help us out, and it showed by the first half stats.”
Draymond Green, Michigan St.’s versatile, emotional leader, fouled out with just 4 points on 1-8 shooting. He didn’t score his first field goal until the 6:20 mark in the second half. Lucas led the Spartans with 17, while Summers had 11. Texas held Michigan St. to just 29 percent shooting.
Hamilton led Texas with 21 points and eight rebounds. Tristan Thompson added 17 and 15. Gary Johnson had 14.
“Great win, but I still don’t think we’re where we should be,” said Hamilton. “We still can do a lot more other things like tempo, slowing the ball down when we have the lead. At the end we might have took some shots we shouldn’t have taken, but we still had success out there. I think Michigan St.’s a great team. Great road win.”
“It came down to us missing shots, layups,” said Izzo. “And then I think running out of gas probably. Not practicing, I think you see what happened with Korie [Lucious] and Keith [Appling]. And then I had to play Kalin more minutes, and I thought he wore down. They did a good job of pressuring him. Every time we cut it down, we had a couple chances, and we just didn’t make shots. Got beat by a better team tonight.
“I thought it was a war and I thought we competed. We just didn’t finish.”
The loss left a sobering feeling in the air. Izzo credited Texas and admitted poor shooting and decision-making by his own team, but also blamed injuries for some of the Spartans’ struggles so far this year.
“We gotta get healthy,” said Izzo of his team that has lost games to UConn, Duke, Syracuse and now Texas. Neither Lucious nor freshman guard Keith Appling practiced this week, and Lucas is still recovering from a torn ACL suffered last March.