Texas led by seven with about 30 seconds left in the first half before Michigan State went on an 8-0 run, stretching into the second half, to retake the advantage. The Spartans led 41-40 when Derrick Nix — huge through the game with 25 points and 11 boards — was slapped with a technical.
But the Longhorns squandered the chance to regain the lead. Sheldon McClellan missed both free throws, and a 13-4 run later, Michigan State had a double-digit lead. Texas fought back, slicing the lead to two with 4:44 left, and to five with 1:41 remaining. But Adreian Payne threw down a dunk and the Spartans hit their free throws down the stretch.
Nix entered the game averaging 7.5 points per contest while shooting just 64.9 percent from the free throw line. But he crushed the Longhorns' upset hopes by shooting 7-for-10 from the field and 11-of-13 from the free throw line.
"Tom has to like what he got out of Nix," said Texas coach Rick Barnes. "He did whatever he wanted. Those were Player of the Year numbers. I know we haven't had anyone dominate us that way."
Keith Appling chipped in 14, while Payne had 13 for Michigan State (11-2).
Julien Lewis led Texas (7-5) with 16 points, while McClellan had 13. But Texas, which had done better in the turnover department, committed 18 giveaways and made just 14-of-24 free throws.
Texas was especially poor in the second half. After shooting 45.5 percent in the first half, including 50 percent from three and making 10-of-15 free throws, Texas shot 30 percent from the field, made just 1-of-7 threes and 4-of-9 free throws in the second.
At the same time, Michigan State came alive in the second, torching the usually reliable Texas defense to shoot 50 percent from the field while making 17-of-a-whopping-23 second-half free throws.
"We had opportunities up until the last four minutes to win the game," Barnes said. "Our spacing wasn't good. But the big thing was we had to get a better effort for our post players. Nix went to work in there."
The Longhorns have one final game on the non-conference slate, Jan. 29 vs. Rice. And Texas doesn't have time to get into gear in conference play either, opening on Jan. 5 at Baylor.