Sunday December 21st, 2014

The disastrous non-conference season for the Big Ten hit what could be a new low on Saturday, as Texas Southern traveled to East Lansing with a 1-8 record and left with a 71-64 overtime win over No. 25 Michigan State

The Spartans did not trail in the game until the Tigers' Jason Carter hit a three-point jumper with 1:26 remaining in regulation. After MSU's Javon Bess hit one-of-two free throws to tie things up with 6.8 seconds remaining and send the game into overtime, the Spartans offense stalled in extra time, scoring just one point until the final minute.

It was Texas Southern's first win over an AP Top 25 team since 1994. 

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Michigan State entered the game leading the nation in three point shooting at 44.4 percent, but made just 4-of-21 attempts (19 percent) on Saturday, and went 0-for-5 in overtime. 

Their leading scorer, senior Travis Trice, was held to six points and shot 3-of-13. Junior forward Matt Costello led MSU with 17 points and junior Denzel Valentine added 15. 

Tom Izzo's squad was playing without senior forward Branden Dawson, who sustained a non-displaced fracture in his wrist on Wednesday and is expected to miss at least one more game. Dawson is the Spartans leading rebounder, however the Spartans still grabbed 40 against the Tigers, including 18 on the offensive end. 

Texas Southern got contributions from a usual source, leading scorer Chris Thomas scored a game-high 22 points on 7-of-11 shooting, and an unlikely one: Malcolm Riley.  The junior averages just over five points per game, but poured in a season-high 20.

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To their credit, the Tigers have played the second-toughest schedule in the country so far, according to Kenpom. They were blown out by 40 by No. 8 Gonzaga on Monday and have also lost to Indiana, Tennessee, SMU, Baylor and Florida. Their lone win heading into Saturday was a 71-59 home victory over Lamar last month.

But make no mistake, it's an embarrassing loss for the Spartans, even without Dawson. The Tigers made the NCAA Tournament last season after going on a nine-game win streak and winning the SWAC, but did not return any of their top three scorers this year. Kenpom gave Michigan State a 98 percent chance of winning​.

MSU's loss is the latest in a series of missteps for the Big Ten, which now holds losses to the likes of Texas Southern, NJIT and Incarnate Word, among others.

It's only been two weeks since the Spartans in-state rival, Michigan, fell at home to NJIT, and the Wolverines would go on to lose to Eastern Michigan as well.

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Michigan State is now 8-4 on the season, with two of those losses coming to Top-15 teams and another to 11-1 Notre Dame. The loss to Texas Southern is one that could sting both in the short and long-term. The Spartans have just one more game, against The Citadel on Monday, to get back on track before conference play begins.

MSU opens Big Ten play at home against a No. 17 Maryland team that could have senior Dez Wells back from a broken wrist, then hosts Indiana and travels to Iowa. We'll know soon whether Saturday's performance was mostly the product of a bad shooting night or a sign of bigger problems to come in East Lansing.

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