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Clanking From the Corner: Michigan State 78, Texas 68

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2018 Continental Tire Las Vegas Invitational - Michigan State v Texas Photo by Sam Wasson/Getty Images

For about 14 minutes, the Texas Longhorns were outworking the Michigan State Spartans in every possible way. Tom Izzo was about to turn inside out as he watched his #11 team play about as lethargically as I’ve ever seen a Spartans squad play. Passes were getting picked off, shots were getting blocked, and Texas was generally creating havo chaos all over the court. Alas, Tom Izzo is Tom Izzo and he’s a Hall of Fame coach for a reason; the Spartans started to come around towards the end of the first half and the second half was a case study in Izzo making the right defensive adjustments to stymie his opponent. Texas thrived at getting open shots off dribble penetration, and in the second half the Bank of Izzo closed those drive-through lanes for good. As enjoyable as last night’s win was, tonight was a good reminder that while Texas is an improved squad they’re still not likely to crack the top ten any time soon. This is where I’d put a cheesy Vegas line about the house always winning, but I’m not Rick Reilly so let’s just say Texas came into this game playing with house money and oh goddammit I did it didn’t I.

The Good

The First 14 Minutes

Man, it was fun while it lasted though. I don’t recall ever seeing an Izzo squad get so thoroughly outworked; it’s almost as if the Spartans thought they could waltz through this game. Texas held Michigan State to 8 points in the first ten minutes through a combination of aggressive interceptions, doubling the post, and all around harassing anybody in green. I think I saw Roach slap the popcorn out of a MSU fan’s hands because he was so in the zone at the time.

Free Throw Shooting

Texas went 15-19 from the line for a 78.9% average. Jaxson Hayes and Jericho Sims went 5-6 from the line, which I read three times just to make sure I saw it correctly. Matt Coleman reverted to form by going 5-6 from the line as well. It was a winning effort from the line, at least.


Texas is a ballhawking squad this year; they created 24 turnovers which meant one out of every three MSU possessions ended by giving it back to Texas. That’s nearly double the rate the Spartans give it over normally. Combine this with Texas yet again turning the ball over on their side at a sub-15% rate and this will continue to reap rewards for the Longhorns all season.

Dylan Osetkowski

In-rhythm threes, timely rebounding, active hands (he led the team with four steals), and good defensive effort throughout the game. I will take 13 points with 2-5 from three any night from Osetkowski.

The HayeSims hydra

The combination of Jericho Sims and Jaxson Hayes played really well tonight. Sims in particular was aggressive on the boards, made purposeful moves against quality opposing bigs, and equipped himself well in the first half. That’s the Sims I’ve been waiting to see all year; Hayes provided his own good qualities as well. There’s little doubt that Hayes is elite running to the rim in the open floor and he has excellent hands for a big man. It’s almost as if he’s been trained by, say, a NFL tight ends coach. We’re nearly in Bamba territory of ‘get the lob in the area code of the rim and he’ll flush it’ which is pretty remarkable. Both had their struggles in the second half with a combination of Sims picking up bad fouls and Hayes failing to snag a single(!) defensive rebound and getting sealed off repeatedly by more powerful Spartan bigs, but overall it was a positive effort from the two.

Me Not Telling Tom Penders to Stick It

Agree to disagree, Tom.

The Mixed Bag is now called It’s Complicated

Three-Point Shooting

The percentage got warped a bit towards the end as Texas started chucking threes to try to close the gap, but it still wasn’t good. Having said that, the first 25 minutes showcased mostly the types of threes you want Texas taking. In the first 25 minutes, Texas was 8-22 (36.3%) from deep which is more than adequate for what they want to do. The last 15 minutes, Texas was mostly unable to create the sort of open looks they desired and went 1-12 (muy.mal%) from deep as a result. Izzo giveth but mostly Izzo taketh, and he taketh all the driving lanes which stunted everything else Texas wanted to do. That included taking open, in-rhythm threes. This team looks way more confident shooting threes than they did last year, and it’s starting to show when they get the look they want. None of them are good enough to create their own looks from beyond the arc though, and too many of the second-half threes were of the “well, shit, nothing else is working” variety.

The Bad

Kamaka Hepa

I have high hopes for Hepa, but tonight was not one of his better nights. He was doing what Osetkowski was doing to start the year: making the next pass without looking at the rim once. Opponents will sag off him until he makes them stop.

Courtney Ramey

His early shooting obscured what was a pretty poor defensive effort. Ramey was getting called for cheap fouls, he was missing on his deflection attempts, and he was giving six inches of space to guards who clearly needed zero to get their threes up. This is all correctable, but didn’t help things.

Offensive Rebounding

With the caveat that Michigan State is one of the better offensive rebounding teams in the nation, they pulled down a board on 50% of their missed shots. That stat is as big an indicator of why Texas lost as anything else; if Texas holds them to 33% (roughly Michigan State’s average this season) that’s about four less shots for the Spartans. Texas doesn’t place a ton of emphasis on the offensive glass, but they do the defensive glass and the Spartans took it to them tonight.

Texas leaves Las Vegas 1-1, which is about where I expected them to be. The difference is I thought the most likely win was coming from UCLA, so in that respect they outperformed how I thought they would do. We can leave this tournament knowing that Texas has the capacity to play against anyone when they’re clicking, but they will need to come up with some answers on the offensive end when teams like Kansas and Kansas State emphasize closing off the paint. This squad has the look of a NCAA Tournament team through the first six games, and they’ll have a chance to make more statements later this year when Purdue and Providence come to Austin. Before that happens, the Radford Highlanders come to Austin on Friday, November 30th. Tip time is 7 PM CT on LHN.

BWG’s writing tunes provided by The Reaktivitz.