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December 21, 2013

Old school eruption: MSU 92, Texas 78

AUSTIN, Texas - With strong, old-school post moves down low and his usual assortment of sweet shooting from the perimeter, Adreian Payne carried No. 5 Michigan State to a 92-78 victory over Texas on Saturday.

Payne's 33-point performance was complemented by the Spartans' best rebounding effort of the season, and the kind of gap-plugging defensive accountability that has earned Michigan State an elite reputation in recent years, but had been lacking in recent weeks as MSU tries to live up to lofty preseason expectations.

The double-digit victory over a big, fast, talented, surging Texas team was easily the best performance of the year for the Spartans.


AUDIO LINK: Izzo's Post-Game Press Conference


''All in all, it wasn't a championship but it's a big road win for us against a very, very good team,'' said Michigan State coach Tom Izzo ''I think both of those teams have a bright future in the second half of the year.''

Payne came through for Michigan State when teammate Keith Appling was having an off day.

Payne battled in the post more aggressively and ambitiously than any time all season, due to improved conditioning, thanks to his plantar fasciitis problem finally subsiding. However, Payne battled cramps and played through pain in notching 11 rebounds to go with his career-high 33 points.

In all, Payne played like a first-team All-America, and maybe as well as anyone has played all year from coast to coast.

''This is probably Adreian Payne's best game of his life and definitely of his Michigan State career,'' Izzo said. ''We went to him just about every time and he delivered almost every time, with the way he shot from the field, from the 3-point line, from the free throw line, getting nine boards. He did a heck of a job.''

Payne hit 10 of his 13 shots from the floor and knocked down 11 of 12 attempts from the free throw line for the Spartans (10-1). He hit a pair of free throws to complete a 14-2 run Michigan State used to put the game away over a 4:22 stretch midway through the second half.

''Payne got off scott-free in the second half because we didn't make him defend,'' Texas head coach Rick Barnes said. ''Michigan State, they weren't No. 1 a couple weeks ago for no reason. They beat us. We really needed to make Adreian Payne defend. We didn't do that.''

Appling, battling a hip pointer, had one of the worst shooting days of his career, connecting on only 2 of 11 attempts from the floor.

Payne was one of six Spartans to score during that 14-2 run. Branden Dawson, who had a double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds, started with a layup. Gary Harris, who missed three of the previous four games with an ankle injury, followed with a 3-point play.

Between Gavin Schilling's
putback and a Travis Trice 3-pointer, Appling got a layup to go, one of his few bright moments. But the way he responded after the game was one of Izzo's favorite moments of the game.

''Listening to him after the game, thanking the guys for picking him up was maybe as big a part of this as the win,'' Izzo said. ''We came down here Thursday night because of plane issues. I wasn't really happy about that but it turned out to be really good because we got to spend a little team time. I think our team grew a little bit.''

Schilling had a career-high five rebounds. Two of his offensive boards led directly to four points.

Schilling logged 12 minutes in emerging as Michigan State's best post player off the bench, with usual starting center Matt Costello still home nursing mononucleosis and substitute starter Alex Gauna ineffective in only two minutes of playing time.

Izzo would prefer to start Branden Dawson at the three and bring Denzel Valentine off the bench. With Schilling out-playing Gauna, Schilling is now a strong candidate to start at center in Michigan State's next game, on Dec. 28 against New Orleans, while Costello continues to recover.

Although Schilling played productively, he battled foul trouble midway through the game and the Spartans had to put wing guard Russell Byrd at the four with Branden Dawson at center in the final two minutes of the first half.

With five boards from Schilling and 11 from Denzel Valentine, the Spartan rebounding effort showed sudden improvement after early season woes included getting beaten on the boards by double digits in games against Kentucky and North Carolina, while also getting out-rebounded by Columbia.

Aside from isolated box-out errors by Gary Harris and Branden Dawson in the first half, the Spartans put a body on the bigger Longhorns and were quick and aggressive to range rebounds.

Cameron Ridley scored 13 of his team-high 17 points in a first half mostly controlled by the Longhorns, who were coming off an 86-83 win at No. 14 North Carolina.

Texas opened the game on an 8-2 run and Michigan State led for only 56 seconds in the first half when Dawson gave the Spartans a 21-19 edge with a layup.

But the Longhorns quickly reclaimed the lead on two 3s by Damarcus Croaker. Javan Felix hit a 15-footer in the final seconds of the first half to give Texas a 38-36 lead going into halftime. His only 3-pointer of the game put the Longhorns on top 47-43 early in the second half but they never held that large of a lead again.

Texas entered the game averaging nearly 10 more rebounds per game than its opponent. But Michigan State - which had been uncharacteristically mediocre on the glass for most of the young season - outrebounded the Longhorns, 25-13, in the second half. The Spartans shot 50 percent from the floor for the game while holding Texas to 39.3 percent shooting.

''We have to learn how to play for 40 minutes, especially against good teams like Michigan State,'' Felix said. ''We played right into their hands by not moving the ball and not getting any movement on offense. That resulted in fastbreak points and got them in a rhythm.''

Texas had four players score in double figures for the 10th straight game as Isaiah Taylor had 16 points and five assists while Javan Felix and Holmes each added 11 points.

Michigan State also had four players with at least 10 points, including Trice, who missed the Spartans' last game with a foot blister but chipped in 13 points while hitting 3 of 4 3-pointers. Harris scored 19 points in what was Michigan State's most lopsided win over Texas in school history.


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