Michigan State coach Tom Izzo isn’t sure his team can hold up against the nation’s best. Unbeaten Texas already has.
The fourth-ranked Longhorns look for their third win of the season against a top 10 opponent when they face the No. 9 Spartans on Saturday in the Spartan Clash at The Palace of Auburn Hills.
Texas, which is 11-0 for the first time since 1981-82 and the second time since 1934-35, already has beaten then-No. 7 Tennessee 97-78 at a neutral site and then-No. 2 UCLA 63-61 on the road. The Longhorns are the nation’s only team this season to beat two top 10 teams.
Michigan State’s lone loss came to UCLA—68-63 on Nov. 20—but the Spartans (10-1) have since won seven in a row, including an 85-45 victory over San Jose State on Wednesday. Still, Izzo was pessimistic after that game, when Michigan State was outrebounded 25-21 in the first half and led by just five at halftime.
“Things like that will get us absolutely killed on Saturday,” Izzo said. “I didn’t think this was a 40-point game. And we have a ton of work to do to get ready to play a team like Texas.”
Freshman Durrell Summers had a career-high 16 points, Raymar Morgan also had 16 and Drew Neitzel added 14 for Michigan State on Wednesday, but the Spartans failed to impress their coach despite compiling 26 assists, 16 steals and 13 blocked shots.
“Going into a game like the one we’ll play Saturday, you want to be building on every aspect,” said guard Travis Walton, who had 10 assists but was 1-of-6 from the field for two points. “Coach didn’t think we were doing that, even though we won by 40.”
Michigan State defeated two ranked teams during its current winning streak— North Carolina State and BYU—but has lost four straight against top 10 opponents since beating then-No. 1 Wisconsin on Feb. 20.
Only one team has really challenged the Longhorns this season. Excluding the victory over UCLA, Texas has won every game by at least 10 points, including a 66-56 win over Oral Roberts on Tuesday.
“We keep playing like we’re playing, we’ll be all right,” sophomore point guard D.J. Augustin said.
Walton said it would be “an honor” to guard Augustin, whom he called “the best point guard in the nation.” Augustin had 24 points for the second straight game on Tuesday, and has 20 or more points in six of the last eight. He also is averaging 6.4 assists this season.
“One-on-one, nobody’s going to stop him, nobody’s going to stop his passing,” Texas junior guard A.J. Abrams said. “It’s pick your poison. He can drive right by and if you sag back, he’ll pass.”
Abrams had a poor shooting night against Oral Roberts, hitting 5-of-15 from the field and scoring 11 points, but made a 3-pointer for the 49th consecutive game. Abrams averages 18.5 points, and needs just 19 to reach the 1,000-point plateau for his career.
Against Michigan State last season at Madison Square Garden, Abrams led all scorers with 22 points and went 6-of-13 from 3-point range but the Longhorns lost 63-61. Morgan had 18 points and Neitzel hit the game-winning shot in the closing seconds.
The Longhorns had won the programs’ two previous meetings, including one in the regional finals of the 2003 NCAA tournament.