Despite placing three players in double-figures, Texas struggled mightily from the field until late in the contest. The Horns missed lay-ups, dunks, free throws and misfired from three-point range. It was a night where the Spartans muscled Texas out of the middle and disrupted ball screens at the perimeter. The Horns got very little production from its bench (five points) and rarely forced consecutive stops. Michigan State tallied 30 points in the paint while Texas managed 16. Yet, Texas was still in this one with less than a minute remaining because of Abram's late three-point barrage and because Texas out-rebounded MSU, 36-31.
Texas entered the game shooting 51 percent from the field, averaging 84 points and boasting wins over a pair of Top 10 teams (UCLA, Tennessee). Texas shot 39.3 percent (23-of-61) from the field Saturday, including 11-of-28 (39.3 percent). Michigan State countered with a 49.1 percent shooting night (28-of-57) and attempted just nine treys, hitting three. The Horns hit 13 of 20 foul shots (65 percent) while the Spartans were 19-of-29 (65.5 percent) from the free throw line.
Things started well for the Horns. Augustin's driving lay-up spotted Texas a 20-13 lead 10 minutes into the ballgame. But Kalin Lucas' gravity-defying reverse lay-up sparked a 16-2 Spartan run that saw the Horns trail, 33-26, before Justin Mason's lay-up stopped the scoring drought. Augustin rode the bench during the final 5:33 of the opening frame after he was whistled for his second personal. The Horns were forced to switch to a zone and stared at a halftime deficit for the first time this season, 41-33.
Augustin opened the second period with a trey but the Horns still struggled to work their way inside against a sagging Spartan zone. A pair of Augustin foul shots pulled Texas within five at 50-45 with 13:52 remaining. That was as good as it would get for the Horns.
The Spartans continued to push the ball with relative ease and took a 60-49 lead on Raymar Morgan's reverse lay-up. With a double-digit cushion, MSU was content to milk the clock as Texas jacked up three-point attempts and/or missed on point-blank shots around the rim.
MSU's Kalin Lucas capped a career-best 18 points with his eighth FG with 1:55 left. That made it a 70-57 contest and triggered a slow exit from the stands. But Abrams knocked down three straight treys in the final 38 seconds to make it a two-possession game, 77-72. The Spartans misfired on three straight foul shots before Morgan blocked what appeared an uncontested Augustin lay-up, all but sealing the deal.
Texas looks to rebound when it hosts highly-regarded Wisconsin, 11 a.m., on December 29.