Texas done in by MSU's Nix in 67-56 loss
Appling missed a pair at the line but Papapetrou did, too. Michigan State protected its lead it the final minute as Nix fittingly grabbed the game's last rebound, giving his team a 36-32 edge on the boards. That and 17 second-half free throws helped immensely.
"We can't be that easy to score against," Barnes said. "We missed too many free throws (10 of 24) and had 18 turnovers. Javan (Felix) had four of them but was probably responsible for 10."
With two freshmen and three sophomore starting, the Longhorns fell behind 12-4 in their first true road game this season. They began 1-for-9 from the field against the Big Ten leaders in field goal percentage defense, then got their bearings with a pair of 3s. A 10-1 run put Texas up 14-13, and 10 first-half free throws helped the visitors lead 33-28 at halftime. McClellan was 6-for-6 at the line in an 11-point half.
The Spartans were 0-for-7 from long range before the break but stayed in the game with the best half of Nix's career. The team's lone senior had 14 points, half of MSU's output and three more he had scored than in any game this season. He also grabbed nine rebounds, more than twice as many as any Longhorn, and helped his team to a 19-13 edge on the boards.
Texas, the last non-conference opponent to win in Breslin Center exactly two years earlier, came in leading the nation in field goal percentage defense at .330. It turned up the tempo, then dropped back into a zone to start the second half. But that didn't help against Nix, who sparked a 10-0 run to give the Spartans a 36-33 lead.
"We've just got to be composed and keep playing," Lewis said. "You can't let the crowd get to you. But we weren't executing nearly as well in the second half."
The Spartans begin conference action at Minnesota on Dec. 31, two days after the Longhorns host Rice. After an up-and-down week with an alumni reunion game in Jenison Field House and a recruiting disappointment with Duke-bound Jabari Parker, Izzo can smile on Christmas, then get back to practice.
"That's one good basketball team we played today," Izzo said. "They'd be really good with (Myck) Kabongo. I was disappointed by the NCAA ruling and for Rick. When I watched the way he cheered on the bench Wednesday night, I'd have given him a big hug if he'd been here. He reminded me of Mateen Cleaves."
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