Erwin Center, University of Texas
Sports are not all about football in Texas, but it is fair to say that more attention is being paid down here to Mack Brown and his recent departure from Texas. But make no mistake that basketball is alive and well in Texas and the Longhorns, a perennial power in the Big 12, wanted an early Christmas present by taking on and beating the Spartans at the Erwin Center.
Early it looked like they would get that Christmas present as Cameron Ridley for the Longhorns started strong and powerful in the low block for the horns. Before the first TV timeout the Horns had a 10-4 lead due to the 6’9” Ridley being dominate down low.
As the game progressed Spartan All American and certain NBA 1sst round draft pick Adreian Payne took over with 17 points in the first half and 33 overall and nine rebounds. Payne also did an amazing line from the line going 11-12. Coach Izzo said of his play in Austin, “This was Adreian Payne’s best game, probably of his life.”
Texas coach Rick Barnes said of Payne’s play, “Adreain Payne was terrific.”
At the half the Longhorns held on to a 38 to 36 lead even with cold shooting from the three point arc.
Early in the second half the Spartans were plagued by turnovers, as they had been in the first half, when Coach Izzo immediately called a timeout after an ugly one minute stretch with the Longhorns up by 4. Right out of the timeout the Spartans erased the four point lead of the Longhorns and at the 14 minute mark the Spartan offense seemed to click. The Spartans had nine turnovers at halftime and only 13 for the contest.
The Spartans adjusted their offense and the ball was consistently in the hands of the big man Payne down low. Payne and the rest of the Spartans started to take the game over. Izzo has agreed with Spartan Nation as we have been calling for Payne to spend more time in the box and today you saw why!
The game’s score was still close when Travis Trice (13 points) and company sank two big three’s and by 8:14 to go in the game the air seemed to go out of the Texas fans. The hundreds of green and white in attendance matched the noise of the Texas fans and excitement in the Erwin center began to build for the Spartans.
The Longhorns seemed to struggle offensively for most of the rest of the game where the once powerful big man of Texas rarely touched the ball. Payne’s offense and Branden Dawson’s rebounding (10 rebounds and 11 points, a double double for B.J.) kept the Longhorns in check through the rest of the game. The end of the game was highlighted by a huge dunk by Branden Dawson off a backboard pass from Denzel Valentine.
When that happened the Longhorns got their early Christmas present taken away and the Spartans got a big win. In the end the Spartans finished off the Longhorns 92-78 and according to Coach Izzo, “That was a big win for us.” His Spartans out rebounded a big Texas team 43-33. Gary Harris returned to action from a bad ankle and had 19 points, and 10-11 shooting from the charity stripe. Denzel Valentine started in place of Harris and he did an excellent job. He poured in eight points and had 10 big boards.
The Spartans next play one week from tonight when they host New Orleans to end the regular season. With the Spartans lone loss of the season coming at home against UNC, and Texas having beaten UNC at UNC this win was certain important for the Spartans to remain in the hunt for that coveted #1 seed in the Big Dance.