Erwin Center was rocking on Saturday, as the upstart Texas Longhorns hosted number five-ranked Sparty. Rick Barnes’ squad was looking to avenge their 67-56 loss from last year in East Lansing.
Texas surprised many experts this year, starting the season 10-1 with an impressive win over North Carolina in Chapel Hill. MSU came into the game shorthanded, with Matt Costello out due to illness and a banged-up Gary Harris coming off the bench.The Longhorns raced out of the gate, taking an early 11-4 lead in the first five minutes. But two quick buckets by Adreian Payne cut the gap to two. With Harris coming off the bench, Denzel Valentine was placed in the starting lineup and Travis Trice was also used heavily in the rotation.
There were questions about how Gary would play on a bum ankle, but his first basket erased those doubts. He exploded off that ankle along the baseline and finished with an acrobatic reverse layup.
MSU was in foul trouble for most of the first half, and Texas capitalized. They pounded the paint and out-rebounded the Spartans 20-18. With Alex Gauna barely seeing the court and Costello not playing, the Spartans were extremely thin in the post.
Texas’ big man Cameron Ridley had his way with whoever tried to guard him, scoring 13 and adding five boards in the first half. A last second shot by the Longhorns gave them a slim 38-36 lead at the half.
Travis Trice provided a much-needed spark off the bench for the Spartans in the first half, scoring eight points on 3-4 shooting from the field. Payne was hot from the outside, scoring 14 in the first frame on 6-7 shooting, to go along with two three-pointers. Harris was more of a distributor in the first, tallying four dimes.
The Spartans’ defense held the Longhorns to 35 percent first half shooting from the field, but Texas got to the charity stripe 13 times, converting on 11.
Adreian Payne continued his dominance in the second half. He was able to back down a much heavier Cameron Ridley on multiple occasions, and Texas was forced to double team him in the post. Texas had foul trouble in the second half, putting MSU in the bonus within the first eight minutes.
Payne picked up his third foul with just over 12 to play in the game, forcing Izzo to put him on the bench. But he returned two minutes later.
With about 10 minutes remaining in the game, MSU began a 14-4 run to take a 68-58 lead with just over five to play. MSU kept getting to the line and were actually making most of their free throws. MSU kept pulling away late, and with just over three minutes left, Valentine went on a fast break, lobbed the ball off the backboard for Dawson to flush down a commanding 13-point lead.
Texas could not cut the lead past 10, and MSU came away with the impressive road victory, 92-78. The Spartans heated up in the second half, scoring 56 points.
Payne had a career game in Austin, finishing with 33 points on 10-13 shooting from the field and 11-12 from the stripe. MSU as a team shot nearly 82 percent from the line. Harris showed that the ankle was not an issue, scoring 19 points with five assists. Dawson was a handful in the paint, with five offensive rebounds and numerous tip-ins. Trice added 11 points off the bench and Valentine had eight and 11.
Texas’ Cameron Ridley had a quiet second half, tallying only four points in the second frame. Freshman guard Isaiah Taylor scored 16 and dished out five assists. The Spartans out rebounded the Longhorns by 10 and held them to 39 percent shooting. The Spartans were efficient from the field, shooting an impressive 50 percent from the field.
The Spartans (10-1) appeared unfazed in their first true road game of the season. MSU has New Orleans up next at the Breslin Center on the 28th.
Blake Froling is a multimedia journalist for Impact Sports.
Photo: Michigan State University