No. 2 Texas pulls away from No. 9 Michigan St.
Texas coach Rick Barnes told his team last weekend that a victory
over one Top 10 team didn’t convince everyone that the
second-ranked Longhorns are for real.
Maybe beating two in four days will sway the holdouts.
Damion James had 23 points and 13 rebounds and Texas pulled
away from No. 9 Michigan State in a 79-68 victory Tuesday night,
giving the Longhorn consecutive wins over Top 10 teams after
beating No. 10 North Carolina on Saturday.
James, who followed 25 points and 15 rebounds against the Tar
Heels with another monster outing, proclaimed himself the “heart
and soul” of the Longhorns (11-0) afterward and warned whoever else
might still be doubting Texas.
“Like we didn’t prove anything against North Carolina,” James
said. “We took that to our workout, and let’s go prove how good we
The Longhorns hadn’t played a ranked opponent before last
weekend but now have impressive wins over two of the nation’s best.
And like the lesser teams to face Texas before them, both the Tar
Heels and Spartans couldn’t hang within single digits by the final
Chris Allen had 12 points for the Spartans (9-3), who
couldn’t beat Texas for a fourth straight year.
Michigan State coach Tom Izzo lamented his team’s 22
turnovers and the Spartans lacking concentration and size on
“We looked a little fatigued and not hungry enough,” Izzo
said. “I didn’t feel very good.”
For anxious Longhorns fans awaiting the BCS championship
game, this big Texas win may tide them over until Jan. 7. Texas
football coach Mack Brown looked on as the Longhorns trailed 37-34
at halftime, and quickly started chipping away at the deficit.
J’Covan Brown hit a corner 3-pointer with 12:58 left to tie
the game at 52. James gave the Longhorns the lead back seconds
later, hitting a floater in the lane to put Texas ahead for the
first time since the first half.
From there, the Longhorns slowly pulled away – then abruptly
put the game out of reach. Gary Johnson stripped the ball from
Spartans point guard Korie Lucious at halfcourt on consecutive
possessions with under 4 minutes left, both leading to fastbreak
dunks and a commanding Texas lead.
It was a record-breaking night for James, who became the
school’s all-time leading rebounder, surpassing
<fstl:categorylink categoryId=”268437″>James Thomas. James,
who was 10 of 18 from the field, has 1,087 rebounds.
The 6-foot-7 senior forward, who said he was “50/50” after
last season about deciding whether to leave for the NBA, said he
hasn’t peaked yet.
“I’m not even playing my best basketball right now,” James
said. “And that’s what’s scary.”
Jordan Hamilton had 14 points, including four 3-pointers, for
the Longhorns, who now have a week off before a last stretch
against Gardner-Webb, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi and Arkansas
takes the Longhorns into their Big 12 schedule.
Before beating North Carolina, the Longhorns feasted on
lesser foes. Texas beat the Tar Heels in the vast enormity of
Cowboys Stadium, in the first basketball ever played at the home of
the Final Four in 2014.
Back home at a raucous Erwin Center, a small cluster of
Michigan State backers briefly stole the show: officials stopped
the game for several minutes so police could confiscate an airhorn
from a Spartans fan who tried shirking away from her seat but was
allowed to stay.
But as the second half wore on, the Spartans had less and
less to cheer about.
Playing consecutive games against Top 10 opponents for the
first time in a decade, the Longhorns hit 7 of 16 from behind the
3-point arc and shot 59 percent from the field in the second half.
Barnes tried tempering the excitement of beating two Top 10
“I told them it’s great. It’s December,” Barnes said. “I said
if this is as good as we’re gonna be, we’re in trouble. We’ve got a
lot of room for growth.”