Even with senior forward Branden Dawson out of the lineup with a non-displaced fracture of his left wrist, No. 25 Michigan State appeared to be a safe bet to take care of business in their final two non-conference games before they start Big Ten play December 30. Guards Travis Trice and Denzel Valentine were still available, as was Bryn Forbes, and the addition of freshman Javon Bess is a nice boost for the Spartans as well.
So a 1-8 Texas Southern team didn’t appear to pose much of a threat…on paper. In action Chris Thomas and Malcolm Riley proved tough to corral, and Jason Carter played well in his second game of the season as Mike Davis’ Tigers won 71-64 in overtime.
Thomas scored a game-high 22 points, Riley (20, seven rebounds) and Carter (13) combined to score 33 of Texas Southern’s 38 bench points on the night and Madarious Gibbs added nine points, nine rebounds and four assists to lead the way for the victors. Texas Southern shot 53.2% from the field, the second-best percentage a Michigan State opponent has shot from the field this season (No. 2 Duke shot 54 percent). Thomas made good use of ball screens for Texas Southern, and the Tigers’ offensive execution helped them make up for Michigan State rebounding nearly 44 percent of its missed shots.
As for Michigan State, doing a good job on the offensive glass doesn’t mean much when you struggle to convert those extra opportunities. Tom Izzo’s Spartans shot 39.3% from the field, with Forbes (six points) and Trice (six points) combining to shoot 4-for-22 from the field, and they were also 4-for-21 from beyond the arc. With Texas Southern as productive as it was offensively Michigan State couldn’t afford that kind of night from the field, especially with Dawson sidelined.
To be fair to Texas Southern their 1-8 record has come as a result of one of the tougher schedules in college basketball. For programs such as theirs non-conference play is seen as an opportunity to add some money to their athletic department’s coffers, with guarantee games being the norm. Prior to Saturday the Tigers had already played games against Indiana, SMU, Baylor, Florida and No. 8 Gonzaga with eight of their nine games being played on the road.
With that being the case Texas Southern wasn’t going to be intimidated, especially with the Spartans playing without Dawson. Michigan State, which entered the game as the nation’s best three-point shooting team, couldn’t find a groove from the perimeter and that combined with Texas Southern’s play on the other end of the floor cost the Spartans dearly.