Following Indiana’s worst loss of the season on Saturday to an 8-10 Northwestern squad, Tom Crean gave his team a partial practice the next day to give his players some rest during a long Big Ten season.
That long season continues tonight in East Lansing, Mich., when the Hoosiers (12-6, 2-3) face No. 3 Michigan State (17-1, 6-0) at 7 p.m., only 17 days after the Spartans beat the Hoosiers, 73-56, on Jan. 4 at Assembly Hall.
“(They’re) really playing well on both sides of the ball, both ends and with very good consistency considering they’ve played without one of the better players in the country the last couple of games in Adreian Payne,” Crean said on Monday during the weekly Big Ten conference call. “We’re trying to continue to get better here at what we’ve got to improve upon and get ourselves prepared in a hurry to get up to Michigan State.”
As if tonight’s challenge won’t be significant enough, doing it on less preparation might make it even more difficult. The Spartans are riding a 10-game winning streak and haven’t lost since Dec. 4 against North Carolina. They have the nation’s No. 20 offense and No. 10 defense.
Indiana dropped its first home game of the season and its second straight to start Big Ten play on Saturday in a 73-56 loss to No. 5 Michigan State.
Here’s a look at five takeaways from IU’s loss to the Spartans:
· Robinson’s rise continues: While freshmen Devin Davis and Troy Williams have stagnated in terms of their production in recent weeks, their classmate Stanford Robinson continues to make a strong case for more minutes. Against Michigan State, Robinson scored 11 points and added four rebounds and two assists in 26 minutes. He was Indiana’s most effective player attacking off the dribble and looks to be moving toward a more prominent role, perhaps as a starter, as his confidence builds.
“He’s got a personality. He’s got a toughness about him,” Tom Crean said of Robinson. “And he’s building his skill level. You’re always working and building your skills but you’re developing your mindset. And it comes … your skills get better, well that helps the confidence.”
· Ferrell’s 17 points overshadowed by turnovers: Yogi Ferrell is off to a fantastic start offensively in his sophomore season, but through two Big Ten games, IU’s point guard and floor leader has 11 turnovers. And while his turnover percentage is down from a season ago, his usage is up significantly which makes the mistakes he’s making more problematic.
There’s no doubt that he is the key cog that makes IU go offensively, but if the Hoosiers are to reverse course on the turnover problem that is a roster wide issue, it has to start with Ferrell cutting down on the careless giveaways.
Seniors Keith Appling and Adreian Payne sat on the bench near the end of the first half, saddled with two fouls a piece. It mattered little. This Michigan State team defended well without them and fellow starters Garry Harris and Branden Dawson made sure points were still going upon the board. The Hoosiers trailed by nine at half and it was just about as close as they’d get the rest of the ball game.
Indiana paid itself little favors, made it so much harder, and that’s just no path to victory against a Spartan team contending for a Big Ten championship, one looking for yet another Final Four trip with Tom Izzo at the helm.
Despite the boos, Harris, as he did last season under similar circumstances, was sensational in this one. When he wasn’t ripping treys (5-of-10), the sophomore was stealing the ball from the Hoosiers (five) and scoring on the other end. He finished with a career-high 26 points in what was maybe his final trip to Assembly Hall. He showed the emotion of a confident, fearless kid and it’s an attitude that will serve him well at the next level. Oh, to think how this season might be playing out a little differently had Harris opted for the cream and crimson.
We could harp on the turnovers (23.5 turnover percentage), but there was so much more that doomed the Hoosiers in this one. The Spartans were tough at the rim (season-high nine blocks) and so Indiana failed to get easy buckets in the paint; IU shot just 36.8 percent on 2-pointers. The Hoosiers were also bested on the offensive boards (31.2 vs. 29.4 offensive rebounding percentage). Michigan State’s ability to keep possessions alive and hit some dagger second (or third) chance buckets took the life out of Indiana.
“Me and my family, we just decided tonight,” Harris said. “All the schools had the same thing but it came down to the school I was most comfortable with. The family atmosphere (at Michigan State) was like no other. The way they treat each other and act and get along — it’s a great feeling.”
A third source — Kyle Neddenriep of The Indianapolis Star — confirmed the news with Gary Harris Sr.
“I absolutely think he did it the right way,” Harris Sr. said. “I’m really happy for him. There’s a range of emotions you go through after going through it for three-and-a-half years. It wasn’t an easy decision.”
Harris, the No. 10 player in the country according to ESPN, took official visits to Indiana, Kentucky, Purdue and Michigan State before ultimately deciding on the Spartans.
He averaged 18.6 points per game as a junior.
Harris’ decision means that Indiana’s 2012 class, ranked as high as No. 2 nationally, will remain at five players.
All five recruits — Hanner Perea, Kevin “Yogi” Ferrell, Jeremy Hollowell, Peter Jurkin and Ron Patterson — signed National Letters of Intent on Wednesday with the Hoosiers.