Sophomore G A.J. Abrams three-point attempt misfired off the back-iron as the young Longhorns, with five freshman on the floor midway through the second period, fell to 2-1 on the season. The sophomore led all scores with 22 points, including 6-of-12 from beyond the arc. It was a tale of two halves for Longhorn super-frosh Kevin Durant, who scored 16 points during the first period but was held to just one FG during the final 20 minutes. Durant finished with 21 points (7-of-19 FG), nine rebounds and four blocked shots. The youngster, who logged 39 minutes, was clearly fatigued late the second period and missed a couple of shots around the rim down the stretch.
Texas hit 11-of-16 buckets to close out the first period but misfired on 20-of-26 shots to open the final 20 minutes. On the night, Texas was a chilly 22-of-62 (35 percent) from the floor. Michigan State shot 22-of-53 (41 percent) and held a 38-31 rebounding edge.
The Spartans' 2-3 zone kept the Horns out of the paint in the early going, grabbing a 19-10 lead as Texas opened 0-for-7 from three-point range. But Abrams' three-ball took the lid off the bucket eight minutes into the ball game. Damion James' putback trimmed MSU's lead, 23-19. Abrams followed D.J. Augustin's layup with his second trey to pull Texas within one at 27-26.
Alternating between man defense and a 2-3 zone, Texas took its first lead courtesy of consecutive steals. First, Augustin's midcourt theft led to his layup and a 31-20 advantage. Then, Abrams' steal and ally-oop dish resulted in a Durant slam and three-point edge. Abrams' third three-ball made it a 38-34 ballgame. The Horns took a 40-36 lead into the lockerroom after going 11-of-16 down the stretch. The Spartans were 6-of-9 from three-point range during the first 20 minutes.
Both teams opened ice-cold during the first five minutes of the second period as the contest became decidedly more physical. C Connor Atchley quickly picked up his fourth foul, but freshman backup Matt Hill contributed two putbacks during that span. Atchley was 0-for-1 from the field and never went to the free throw line.
A pair of Durant free throws gave Texas a 47-42 advantage. But back-to-back MSU treys regained the Spartan lead, 48-47. It was part of a 12-0 run that saw MSU jump to a 54-47 lead. The question was how a youthful Texas team would answer the Spartan surge.
Abrams drained consecutive three-balls from the left wing to stop the bleeding. Durant was held without a second period FG until the 6:45 mark, but his jumper kept Texas within a point at 56-55. Abrams drained his sixth trey just before Durant hit one of a pair of freebies to tie the game at 59 as the game clock neared the four-minute mark. Both teams traded FTs to make it a 61-61 affair with less than one minute remaining. Abrams misfired on an open trey, giving Michigan State the opportunity for the game-winning bucket.
Texas and St. Johns are scheduled for a 6 p.m. (CST) tip-off. The game will be televised nationally on ESPN2.