Payne, Spartans Trounce 'Horns

Adreian Payne played what Michigan State coach Tom Izzo called maybe the best game of his career, scoring 33 points and grabbing nine rebounds as the Spartans handed the Longhorns their second loss of the season, 92-78.

"We have to learn how to play for 40 minutes, especially against good teams like Michigan State," said Texas guard Javan Felix.

It was an apt comment, especially for a game that saw Texas take a 38-36 halftime lead and a contest that was tied 50-50 heading into the under-12 timeout.

At just slightly after the under-8 timeout, the Longhorns trailed 66-56, and the Spartans kept Texas at arm's length the rest of the way.

"I love my team, I really do," said Texas coach Rick Barnes. "They're disappointed, you can tell.

"This is a game where I can't explain some of the things that happened," Barnes said. "Our guys got out of character a little bit. It's a game, and it happens."

The game was tied at 54-all when Michigan State guard Gary Harris — back from an ankle injury that forced him to miss three games — hit a jumper coming off a screen and was fouled by Demarcus Holland. Harris made the free throw for a three-point play. Texas made one-of-two free throws, then Gavin Schilling tipped in a missed three-pointer — one of just three missed shots overall — from Adreian Payne. Felix missed a jumper, and Keith Appling finished a layup on the other end. The Longhorns again made one of two free throws, then left Travis Trice open for three. Appling found him to up the lead to eight. Two Payne free throws later, and the lead was 66-56. Texas never got closer than eight the rest of the way.

In all, it served as a hard-learned lesson for a young Texas team about just how sharply it will have to play against excellent teams.

In particular, the Longhorns labored in the second half to keep the Spartans from doing things they've struggled to do all season long. Michigan State entered the game as a mediocre offensive rebounding team, and an exceedingly poor team at getting to the free throw line, ranking 317th in free throw rate. And both of those held true in the first half, with Michigan State getting to the line just four times and grabbing two offensive boards.

But in the second half, Michigan State went to the free throw line 29 times — eight were in the final 1:30, but 21 is still impressive — making 24 of those 29 freebies. And the Spartans snagged nine offensive boards to Texas's nine defensive rebounds in the half.

The Longhorns, who came into the game as an outstanding rebounding team, were out-rebounded 43-33 for the game, including a 25-13 advantage in the second half.

"We knew that Michigan State was going to come out fighting," said Isaiah Taylor. "Unfortunately, the first couple of minutes of the second half, we didn't match their intensity, but we played hard, and we showed some resilience."

Those advantages were compounded by the play of Payne, who scored the most points for an opponent at the Frank Erwin Center since Kansas State's Denis Clemente dropped 44 in a 2009 overtime game. Payne was effective at three levels, shooting 40 percent from three (all three of his misses came from distance), making 11-of-12 free throws and scoring in a variety of ways on and around the block, often over a defender's outstretched arm. Nineteen of Payne's 33 came in the second half, with him coming through seemingly every time the Spartans threw him the ball.

"He has a lot of moves in the post, and we couldn't find a way to contain him tonight," Jonathan Holmes said. "He's a really good player and an elite talent."

In addition to scoring 33 points on just 13 field goal attempts, Payne also grabbed nine rebounds.

The Spartans received a welcome 19 points and five assists from Harris off the bench and 11 points and 10 rebounds from guard/forward Branden Dawson. That helped to make up for an off night from star point guard Keith Appling, who made 2-of-11 shots and scored four points, though Appling did make a pair of nice plays in the Spartans' deciding run.

Cameron Ridley led the Longhorns with 17 points and nine rebounds, though he had 13 and five at the halftime break. Damarcus Croaker scored eight in the first half, but was benched for taking an early possession shot not in the flow of the offense, with Barnes later noting that the team failed to continue to get the ball in to Ridley to force Payne to play defense, contributing, in part, to Payne's big night.

Fellow post Holmes had 11 points and six rebounds, while Taylor had 16 points and five assists. Felix scored 11, but was just 4-of-15 from the field.

Texas entered the week needing at least one win in a tough two-game stretch at North Carolina and against Michigan State (10-1) at home, and the Longhorns got that versus the Tar Heels. If they can close out their non-conference slate with a home win against Rice, the Longhorns will be 11-2 heading into league play and in excellent shape to pursue another NCAA Tournament berth.

"We grew up a lot [this week], but we expect to go out and win every game that we play," Felix said. "Michigan State was the better team tonight. We didn't do what we had to do. We didn't really stick to the game plan, and then came out with the win."

Texas-Rice tips off at 1 p.m. on Dec. 30.

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