Hoosiers ready for physical game with No. 13 Michigan State

012612ieAfter last season, you figured maybe Michigan State would take a step back in the Big Ten. The Spartans lost the heart and soul of their team in Draymond Green, a guy who tortured Big Ten teams and fans for four years.

But here come the Spartans, sitting atop the conference rankings with a 6-1 league record and a No. 13 ranking as they prepare to enter Assembly Hall for Sunday afternoon’s showdown with No. 7 Indiana. On paper, it’s the same old competitive Michigan State team.

“I’m used to the Tom Izzo that’s gloom and doom and ‘the sky is falling’ and he’s only happy when he’s miserable,” Indiana coach Tom Crean said Saturday. “And reading some of the comments coming out of Michigan, those guys are really excited to play. That’s nerve-wracking.”

Green is gone, but almost everyone else is back, including explosive point guard Keith Appling. The 6-foot-1 Appling nearly single-handedly beat the Hoosiers (17-2, 5-1) in the teams’ first meeting a year ago in East Lansing, going for a season-high 25 points, seven assists and six rebounds.

In his only career game at Assembly Hall, though, Appling scored only six points on 2-of-6 shooting.

“He’s the guy who beat us a year ago,” Crean said. “He’s tremendous. He can turn it on at any point in time. He’s excellent in transition, he wants to get to the foul line for his pull-up jumper. He’s delivering the ball, he’s getting to the rim, he’s just creating a lot of havoc.”

Added senior guard Jordan Hulls: “Lot better shooter. He’s added that to his game and he’s very explosive in transition, just getting to the rim or pulling up. We know we have to try and contain him.”

The problem for Indiana is, Appling is not the Spartans’ only weapon. Not even close. He’s joined in the backcourt by Indiana native and 2012 Indiana Mr. Basketball, Gary Harris, who is averaging 12.3 points per game in his freshman campaign. He’s also shooting nearly 39 percent from 3-point range.

“He’s very athletic, likes to get to the rim,” Hulls said. “We just have to do a good job of keeping him outside and not letting him get penetration. He’s a very capable 3-point shooter and he can play different areas on the floor. You just have to be aware of him.”

The backcourt matchup should be interesting considering the Hoosiers usually start Hulls and Yogi Ferrell, two guys right around 6-foot. Either Appling or Harris is going to be a difficult matchup for Hulls, so whoever he guards could dictate who Michigan State (17-3, 6-1) runs its offense around.

But while people like to focus on Michigan State’s backcourt, this game very well could be decided by which team wins the battle of the front lines. The Spartans are exceptionally big inside — they start Branden Dawson (6-foot-6, 230 pounds), Adreian Payne (6-foot-10, 240 pounds) and Derrick Nix (6-foot-9, 270 pounds).

“We just have to do our work early on em, make catches tough and try to deny them as much as possible,” senior forward Christian Watford said. “Just make everything difficult for them.”

The Spartans often force their opponent to match up with them on the interior, but they could also have a real problem matching up with Indiana’s front line of Victor Oladipo, Watford and Cody Zeller. All three have the ability to play on the perimeter, which could force the Michigan State bigs to move away from the basket.

“We just gotta get movement,” Watford said. “I think our offense is designed with movement, and once we get out, we plan to wear them down a little bit.”

The Spartans certainly plan to play very physical, especially with Zeller. Nix and Payne effectively roughed Zeller up a little bit in his first career Big Ten game last year, and that will likely again be Izzo’s goal.

“That game was really his indoctrination into physical, high-level basketball, and I think he handled it really well,” Crean said. “It’s gonna be that kind of week. The key for him is movement and spacing. It’s up to us to put him in some different situations, but it’s up to him to be very aggressive and just keep building on what he’s doing.”

Notes

· More games, less practice: With many games upcoming for the Hoosiers in a relatively short period of time, Crean has started to shorten the team’s daily practice times. He said he did the same thing in February last season, but has started to do it even earlier this year in an effort to keep his team fresh.

· Free-throw issues: Points at the foul line have not always come free for Indiana this season. The Hoosiers have struggled from the line at various times, including their last game against Penn State in which they made just 21-of-37 attempts.

“I think there’s times we get undisciplined with our technique,” Crean said.” That’s what it is. To me, that’s really all it is. It seems like it’s contagious and sometimes it is. Sometimes we’ve gotten undisciplined and lazy in our technique, and that’s what we’ve worked to correct. I’d be way more concerned if we weren’t getting the attempts, but we are.”

Crean on Michigan State:

“Gary Harris is playing like a true veteran. He seems to have an excellent understanding of it. Dawson seems to be very healthy and can just be a dominating factor on the boards. Adreian Payne is as improved as anybody in our league. We have some guys that would be up for that award too, there’s no doubt about that, but so would Adreian Payne. He’s tremendous. The second half he had against Penn State, I could just only hope everything goes well over in that hotel tonight and that he doesn’t get that fire lit under him (joking). And Derrick Nix is a mainstay.”

Izzo on Indiana:

“This still to me is maybe the most complete team. Some maybe have better guards, some have better this. They have depth, guards, bigs, well coached, tough place to play. I still think this might be definitely one of the best teams in the league, no question about it.

“What Tom has done is he’s kind of taken the approach we did. Now those freshman and sophomores that got their brains beat in, are juniors and seniors and they added one freshman in with it. But it’s a pretty experienced team. He’s got a lot of guys that have started a lot of games. Their bench is very deep, although it hasn’t been as productive lately, but still very deep. He’s got guys that started last year that aren’t even playing right now.”

  • sloan screen #45

    I think the key to our D tomorrow is Yogi shutting down Appling. The ole cut the head off the snake kinda thing. That happens I think we can live with Harris going off a little on Hulls. Glad to here CTC is letting up on the practices a little. The guys should be in shape enough by now to play at the pace CTC wants with rested legs. Can we go ahead and scratch Minny off the list of B1G title contenders? And, uhh, Go Illini. Might as well let some of the mid level teams do some work for us.

  • Ole Man

    Go Hoosiers. Yes, MSU will be a tough one, no doubt.
    But Indiana is the team to beat this year. Let’s take tomorrow’s game and the next two and establish that fact!

  • Kevin Tolliver

    IMO I think Hulls should guard Appling and Yogi on Harris. Keith is listed at 6’1″ 190 lbs. I realize Appling has the ball more in his hands but Harris is a better scorer and stronger with ball. Remy can provide minutes for Hulls and guard Appling.

  • Geoff_85

    I would love to see the Whining Illcryini win that game. I have a friend who is a Michigan fan and he is always running his mouth. Michigan doesn’t play defense, so hopefully Illannoy’s shots from beyond the arc will be falling.

  • Geoff_85

    Hopefully Indiana can keep their defense on par with the way it’s been playing the whole Big Ten season, and they can get their offense to come back around. I think at least the latter will happen. I don’t see MSU preventing Indiana from running, and if they do, they will have to do it with Nix and/or Payne on the bench, and Cody Zeller can attack the middle in the half court. I just keep thinking about the Green/Oladipo matchup in the second half of the game at Assembly Hall last season. That was fun to watch. For some reason I remember Victor scoring 20+ but nope, he only scored 13. I took him for the Pick to Click, but I can see Christian Watford or Zeller being the leading scorer for the Hoosiers in this one. I’m not sure how much man-to-man the Spartans play, but if they’re in man defense, Watford needs to be pulling Nix or Payne out to the 3pt line. If they let him have the shot, he needs to fire it. If they come out on him, Zeller has someone one-on-one, and he needs to score. If they double Zeller, someone is open somewhere. Zeller makes everything happen on this offense without even doing anything. People can talk Oladipo as MVP for the Hoosiers this year, but with no Zeller, this is a markedly different team. Something to remember as well is that when the Spartans came to town last year, they scored 55 points…and that was with Draymond Green scoring TWENTY-NINE. Tom Crean knows what he has to do to stop their offense. God, I can’t wait for this game, and of course the Illannoy Michigan game. Also something of note. If Michigan loses, and that’s a big if, Indiana could move up to 2nd or 3rd on Monday. That’s awesome. It doesn’t mean a lot, but it gives us a little perspective on the landscape of college basketball and maybe we won’t have so many people talking about how bad Indiana is right now. I mean, we could be Louisville (I bet you guys down south are having fun with that lol). One last thing…REBOUND.

  • InTheMtns

    I like your way of thinking here, Ole Man. Go Hoosiers!

  • SCHoosier

    “Shutting down ” a strong phrase..how about playing him even? If Yogi does .and limits his own TO’s…I like our chances. Of course everybody else has to play at a high level. Still think fouls will be the difference in this game.

  • unclekerfuffle

    To piggyback on your theme, I will go as far as to say that the way the Hoosiers play against MSU will set the tone for the remainder of the year and give us some idea of what to expect come March and, hopefully, April.

    Keep in mind that we have yet to see IU play a complete 40 minutes at their potential. If they are able to do that today, the game won’t even be close; even more importantly, it will send to message to the rest of the world as well as the IU players themselves that “Indiana is the team to beat this year.”

  • http://twitter.com/IUMitchell Deon M

    I got this feeling we are going to look like the best team in the nation today. Across the board IU is still my favorite to win Banner 6.

  • Monica

    Unrelated but anyone know where to buy the same sweatshirt coach crean wears in the iu/mi state game?

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