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December 21, 2013

Longhorns lose to No. 5 Spartans 92-78

After getting off to a hot start to begin the game and taking a lead into halftime, the Longhorns (10-2) got away from doing what's made them so successful in games this season, and had no answer for Andreian Payne. The No. 5 Spartans (10-1) looked like a Final Four team for most of the game, especially the second half, and pulled away to win comfortably 92-78 over Texas.

1) Let's start with Payne, who was sensational, amazing, incredible, dominant, or whatever else you want to call him. Texas had no match for him as he scored 33 points on 10-of-13 shooting from the floor, and grabbed nine rebounds. Tom Izzo felt like he was the difference in what would have been a close game down the stretch and the 14-point margin of victory. Rick Barnes felt like Texas let Payne off the hook some by not forcing him to defend much down low because Texas didn't push the ball into the post enough after doing it so well early in the first half.

"When we got a little bit up on them, Payne was unbelievable and that was the difference of the game, otherwise I think it would have gone right down to the wire," said Izzo.

2) Just when it looked like Texas was going to grab the momentum after Jon Holmes had a putback and then ripped Branden Dawson to take it coast-to-coast with a layup to put his team ahead 54-52, the Spartans won the game with a 14-2 run. Michigan State destroyed Texas' zone when it was briefly in it during the run, which lasted from the 10:57 mark to the 7:26 mark in the second half. It also got to the line at a very high rate, while also totally disrupting the flow of the Texas offense.

"They pushed the tempo because of our turnovers," said Barnes about Michigan State's run. "If you have open court turnovers, it opens up the basket. Our guards were coming down almost putting their heads down trying to make something happen that wasn't there. You turn it over a couple times and you take a shot no one is expecting you to take, it allows for easy layups. We'll learn from it."

Isaiah Taylor offered up his take on the offense in the second half.

"The first 10 minutes of the second half, the ball got stagnant," said the freshman. "We wanted to play inside-out, but we didn't do that in the second half."

3) Prince Ibeh and Connor Lammert combined for zero points, one rebound, three turnovers, and four blocks in 22 minutes. The duo's lack of scoring production had some to do with the fact that Texas wasn't working the ball into the bigs well enough, but Texas isn't going to beat good teams with that kind of production from those two, especially when rebounding is an issue like it was in the second half.

Dawson and Denzel Valentine combined for 21 rebounds, and Valentine is a guard. It looked like Lammert was a step slow and bothered by Michigan State's effort and toughness and Ibeh just wasn't in a position often enough to make a play.

4) In the first half, Texas did a very good job of attacking on offense, especially after Michigan State makes. Even though it shot a poor percentage (35.3 percent), it got good looks near the rim and put Michigan State on its heels some. That wasn't the case in the second half. The Longhorns became stagnant on offense, and the Spartans did a much better job of limiting the opportunities the Longhorns could attack by shooting 50 percent from the floor and by slowing down their tempo.

"They beat us in transition and they beat us on the boards," Izzo said about the first half and what changed. "I thought we adjusted to the speed of the game. They play at warp speed."

5) After scoring the first five points of the game and playing at a high level in the first half, Cameron Ridley didn't see the rock much in the second half. The sophomore was 4-of-8 in the first half and just 1-of-2 in the second half. That can't happen. Part of it was Michigan State adjusting some on defense, but most of it was because the Texas guards simply didn't work the ball into the post at a high enough rate.

Ridley finished with a team-high 17 points (5-of-10 shooting; 7-of-10 from the free-throw line) and also led the team with nine rebounds.

6) The real dagger of the game came when Javan Felix made a very poor decision to force a contested three-pointer, which allowed Michigan State to get a run out and a wide open dunk. The very next play Isaiah Taylor didn't get the call on a layup attempt, and that resulted in an alley-oop dunk off the backboard to put the Spartans up 79-66 with 3:28 left.

Texas won't be into moral victories, but credit it with continuing to fight and play the rest of the way. After those two dunks, it could have very easily been blown out by 25 points.

7) Texas was minus-12 on the glass in the second half, and it's fair to say that is partially because of effort. That hasn't happened to Texas really at all this season, but Michigan State really took it to Texas on the glass when the game started to get out of hand.

"Rebounding was a big factor," Jon Holmes said about what allowed the game to get away from Texas. "Payne had an amazing game and we couldn't find a way to stop him. We didn't execute on offense either, so those are the three things that hurt us in the second half."

After the game, Izzo called Michigan State's second-half rebounding effort maybe the best he's had in two years.

8) That being said, I don't think Texas lacked in effort or intensity overall; it just got somewhat overwhelmed for one stretch of the game, and the rest the game was pretty much a tie. This group didn't have a letdown, and was simply beaten by a better basketball team.

9) After playing very well in the first half, including a fairly impressive job of guarding Gary Harris, Damarcus Croaker barely got off the bench in the second half. He scored eight points on 3-of-5 shooting on the first half, and dropped in two three-pointers with a nasty dunk when he blew by multiple Spartans in a half-court set.

It was odd that he couldn't really get any run in the second half because he wasn't having any issues on defense. Barnes cited his decision-making early on offense as the reason why.

"What we wanted to do in that point of time… Payne was terrific, and we wanted him to guard. We talked about playing inside-out, and he comes into the game and that situation and he can shoot the ball but he already made up his mind he was going to shoot it before he got it. We really needed to make Payne defend. I think Cam (Ridley) got two shots in the second half. He went in and did exactly what we didn't want at that time."

10) Taylor finished with 16 points, a lot of which came late when he was able to consistently drive and attack the rim. Demarcus Holland managed just nine points on 2-of-8 shooting, but his defense was tremendous, especially on Keith Appling. On one possession, Holland forced Appling into a five-second call 40 feet from the rim, and he was a big reason why the senior guard shot 2-of-11.

Bonus) - Tom Izzo nailed it perfectly when he discussed this Texas team and Rick Barnes.

"I love this team's chemistry," Izzo said about Texas. "I love the Taylor kid. I think they're more together. I went through it myself. You have superstars that don't buy in or looking for other things. I've been there too. I've been there and won, and been there and lost. I thought for the most part that his guys are playing so hard."

Like most Texas fans that watched the game, Izzo noticed a smiling Barnes during the North Carolina game.

"I was watching that game at North Carolina I just see him more at peace with himself and his team," Michigan State's head coach said about Texas' head coach and his team. "When they had that flagrant foul at the end, he's got a smile on his face. That kind of told the story. I love this team's chemistry. I just think they're more together. I felt for him last year. I think you're going to love this team down here, those of you that are Longhorn fans. It's definitely as I look through the years, there might've been years with more talent but not a better team in the chemistry and how hard they play. I love Texas' team. I think Rick has done an unbelievable job with those kids. The future is incredibly bright."

Barnes expects his team to bounce back.

"I love my team," he said. "I really do. They're disappointed, you can tell. They go about their business. This can be a baffling game sometimes. We had our best practice in maybe five years yesterday, we were terrific. As a coach, if I knew all the answers I would tell you. This is a game where I can't explain some of the things that happen. Our guys get out of character a little bit. It's a game and it happens. The face is I love this team because they really love each other. They work for each other. They respect each other."

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