Published November 25, 2012
EAST LANSING, Mich. – Louisiana-Lafayette's rally fell short with too many missed free throws in its bid for a major upset on the road against No. 15 Michigan State.
The Ragin' Cajuns lost 63-60 on Sunday. Shawn Long missed on a drive and Elfrid Payton missed a contested 3-pointer in the closing seconds that would have tied it.
"We wanted to go for 3," coach Bob Marlin said. "It happened quickly. We were out of timeouts. I wish I'd had one in my back pocket."
Michigan State coach Tom Izzo is getting tired of his team's generous nature and giving spirit over the holidays. The Spartans (5-1) committed 20 turnovers, 14 in the second half, and Louisiana-Lafayette nearly overcame a 10-point deficit.
"I think our guys are going to be great citizens when they get done with basketball, because the Christmas season is lasting all year," Izzo said. "They're giving gifts away.
"Give them a lot of credit — I thought they played harder than we played. But I can't give anybody credit for some of those. It's undisciplined and inexcusable."
Keith Appling scored 19 points and helped his team hang on for its fifth straight win. Appling, who has scored at least 17 points in every game except one this season, was 4 for 11 from the field. But he made other plays at key times, hitting 10 free throws and adding six rebounds and five assists.
Appling did have help from several teammates. Branden Dawson had 11 points and Brandan Kearney scored a career-high 10 off the bench. Adreian Payne had 10 rebounds.
Payton had 20 points for the Ragin' Cajuns (2-4). Long added 16 points, all but two coming in the first 10:03 of the game, and Kevin Brown had 14 points.
"Most teams won't have a big man who can step out to the perimeter and guard me, so I tried to exploit that early," Long said. "I think I did a good job. Later, I rushed some shots. I should have slowed down a little bit."
Louisiana-Lafayette made just 11 of 21 from the foul line, which may have cost it a major upset.
"It means a lot that we were able to do this," Long said of the missed opportunity. "We have a lot of young guys on the team. I'm a freshman and our point guard only a sophomore. If we keep this up, we might be ranked next season."
Appling's two free throws put the Spartans up 60-50 with 3:09 left. But more Michigan State's miscues kept the outcome in doubt.
Brown hit a 3-pointer with 1:42 left to pull the Ragin' Cajuns within four. His putback after another turnover cut the deficit to 62-60 with 56.3 seconds remaining.
Michigan State led 33-27 at halftime behind eight points from Kearney, one more than his previous career high. But with several chances to blow the game open, turnovers became a major issue again.
The Spartans have won 65 of their last 66 non-conference home games and haven't lost at home in November since a defeat by David Robinson-led Navy 26 years ago.