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No. 2 Texas pulls away from MSU

Spartans committ 22 turnovers, including 17 from backcourt

December 22, 2009

In a flash Tuesday night, a series of plays epitomized the MSU men’s basketball team’s outing against Texas in Austin, Texas — its strengths muted while the Longhorns’ strong points flexed their muscles.

Hanging by a thread with about four minutes to play, a strong post move from Texas junior forward Gary Johnson followed by consecutive steals-turned-fast break slams threw the Spartans on their back for good in a 79-68 loss.

It was a fitting end to a night in which the talented MSU backcourt corps never seemed comfortable and No. 2 Texas’ depth proved to be too much for the visiting No. 9 Green and White.

“We’re going against a good team but those turnovers that we committed, that’s why they shot 65 percent,” MSU head coach Tom Izzo told the Spartan Sports Network after the game. “It was just lay-up, dunk, lay-up, dunk.”

The Spartans led by as many as eight points in the first half, but their guards were handcuffed into turnovers and sloppy play while MSU was forced to play much of the stretch without forwards Draymond Green and Raymar Morgan because of foul trouble.

Meanwhile, the Spartans (9-3) had no answer for Texas senior forward Damion James, who tallied a game-high in points (23) and rebounds (13) for the Longhorns (11-0). Junior guard Chris Allen led the Spartans with 12 while junior guard Kalin Lucas never looked in sync, turning the ball over six times under incessant Texas pressure.

The backcourt of Allen, Lucas, junior guard Durrell Summers and sophomore guard Korie Lucious combined for 17 of MSU’s 22 turnovers.

“We got in foul trouble and we had to play guys and that had to hurt us a little bit,” Izzo said. “We were a little worn down — a couple missed plays, couple missed lay-ups. That’s a good team, but that game should have gone down to the wire.”

The Spartans were a step behind out of the gates, allowing Texas to run to an easy 7-0 lead early before a balanced scoring attack allowed the Spartans to climb back into it. A transition lay-up from Summers at the 14:20 mark in the first half gave MSU its first lead of the game — a 13-12 advantage.

Again, Texas snuck away from the Spartans with a quick 7-3 run before two swift transition baskets off Longhorn misses led to back-to-back MSU buckets, including an Allen 3-pointer at the 9:27 mark to knot the score at 21.

A fancy reverse from sophomore center Delvon Roe followed by back-to-back 3-pointers from Lucious gave the Spartans their first extended lead of the game at 31-23.

By the end of the half, at which time the Spartans led 37-34, eight Spartans had put points on the board. The Spartans maintained the three-point lead through most of the early minutes of the second half until a James shot inside the lane gave Texas a 54-52 lead.

Later in the half, a four-minute stretch without an MSU field goal coupled with foul trouble for Green and Morgan allowed Texas to take a 68-61 lead into an Izzo timeout with 5:15 to play.

“You can’t make the mistakes we made and have a chance to win it,” Izzo said. “We were in it right to the four-minute mark, then we just couldn’t get it done.”

The rest was history as the Green and White were drowned out in a sea of burnt orange.

It was Texas’ first win in the last four meetings against the Spartans in a series that was being played on a team’s home floor for the first time.

After playing five of its first 12 games away from Breslin Center, the Spartans will return to action on Jan. 30 at home against Texas-Arlington. Five of the Spartans next seven games — including the beginning of Big Ten play — will be at home.

“It was a good game,” Izzo said. “The place was great. I love playing here. Rick’s a good friend and I think he’s got a Final Four-type team. There’s more encouraging (than discouraging) coming out of Michigan State coming out of this game.”

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