Five takeaways from Indiana’s win over Michigan State

  • 01/22/2017 11:26 am in

Indiana won its third straight game – an 82-75 triumph over Michigan State – on Saturday afternoon at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall. The win improved the Hoosiers to 14-6 overall and above .500 in Big Ten play (4-3) for the first time this season.

Here’s a look at five takeaways from the win over the Spartans:

· James Blackmon Jr. carries Indiana: This was a great team win for Indiana. Numerous guys contributed, the Hoosiers took care of the ball, played really good defense for the first 25 minutes and again guarded well to close the game.

But looking at individual performances, this is the best game James Blackmon has ever played in an Indiana uniform. Blackmon came out firing in the game’s opening minutes and never slowed down. He hit difficult, contested 3s. He finished at the rim over length. And he played very solid defense nearly throughout.

Blackmon’s line was outstanding: 33 points (11-of-16 from the field, 5-of-6 from the line), four rebounds, an assist and two turnovers in 36 minutes.

For an Indiana team that plays, out of necessity, several guys who are offensively challenged, Michigan State knew that Blackmon was going to be on the attack all afternoon. And they still had no chance at stopping him.

· Take care of the ball and good things happen: After Wednesday’s near debacle at Penn State where Indiana couldn’t hold on to the ball (23.8 turnover percentage), the Hoosiers reversed course on Saturday.

Indiana had a season-low nine turnovers and a season low turnover percentage of 14. It was a major reason the Hoosiers put 1.27 points per possession on a defense that came in surrendering .91 in Big Ten games.

“I was disappointed in our defense in the first half but I was impressed with Indiana’s offense,” Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said. “They dribble drove us, bullied us and they did a good job. It was boys against men.”

Taking care of the ball better with more regularity will be a key to winning games away from Bloomington. Indiana still has seven league games on the road, beginning with a pair this week at Michigan and Northwestern. Neither of those teams are particularly strong at forcing turnovers, so Indiana’s chances for success will depend largely on taking care of the ball.

· Robert Johnson scores 17, slows down Miles Bridges: For the first time since Indiana’s NCAA tournament win over Chattanooga in March, Robert Johnson didn’t have a turnover in Saturday’s win.

He was 6-of-12 from the field, including 3-of-5 on 3-pointers, and added four rebounds and an assist in 30 minutes.

But as good as Johnson was offensively, his defensive effort on Miles Bridges was more important. Johnson started out on Bridges and forced him to take difficult, contested shots for much of the game. Bridges went just 4-of-17 from the field and finished with 13 points.

With OG Anunoby out for the season and Juwan Morgan still out with a left foot injury, Johnson shut down one of the Big Ten’s most versatile wing players. And it was a major reason Indiana won its third straight game.

· Early minutes for McRoberts now paying off: The minutes for Zach McRoberts earlier in the season were met with plenty of skepticism. Indiana’s lineups in the Nebraska game, several of which included McRoberts, were questioned in this very space.

But with all of the injuries, McRoberts is now an essential piece to Indiana’s success. He only scored three points, but he played 32 minutes, which is 13 more than he’d played in any game this season. But he took care of (no turnovers) and moved the ball (three assists), hit the boards (five) and had two steals and a block.

“He serves his teammates,” Tom Crean said postgame. “He’s one of those guys that he wants to make them better and sometimes he’s got to be reminded that he’s pretty good too. But he’s very, very valuable to them. I was sold when I watched him get better this summer, when I watched the work that he put into his body to gain the weight that he did after he tried out.”

· Defense starts strong, but struggles in second half: Indiana’s defense was a major issue in its first four Big Ten games. IU’s best defensive performance in that 1-3 span was holding Maryland to 1.14 in a loss.

The Hoosiers were better against Rutgers (.77) and Penn State (1.05), but those teams are offensively challenged. Saturday’s first half performance was encouraging from a defensive perspective as IU held Michigan State to just one point per possession.

The second half was a different story as Michigan State scored 1.44 points per possession and grabbed 56.3 percent of its missed shots for 18 second chance points.

But Indiana buckled down late.

After Kenny Goins brought the Spartans to within four with a dunk at the 5:03 mark, Indiana didn’t allow another field goal until Miles Bridges hit a 3-pointer with 20 seconds remaining. Over that span of 4:43, Michigan State missed six shots and scored just five points, all on free throws.

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  • Ms hoosier

    If the Hoosiers can keep the turnovers down at this rate they will have a chane to win every they play!! They have proven that turnovers have been their downfall. Turnovers destroys your offenseive and defensive flow in a game. IU’s defense and offense flowed much better yesterday due to much fewer turnovers!!

  • Kyl470

    Yep turnovers usually lead to easy buckets for the other team which of course then make your defensive numbers look even worse.

  • Lance76

    This team did well @ home and here’s hoping that translates to road. This was not a typical MSU team with Davis leaving and the injuries to Carter and Schilling. I like watching players we have recruited but decided to go elsewhere. Bridges is a man among boys and is only getting better.

  • TennesseeHoosier

    One question. With Hartman and OG most likely coming back next year, Bryant possibly due to his NBA stock falling since the season began, and McRoberts playing well and earning his minutes, and committed recruits on board, what is the scholarship situation for next year? Seems like some tough choices ahead in Bloomington.

  • The next game is at Michigan, not Michigan State…

  • I’d have to go back and watch the game again (and had to delete it off my DVR because of all of my wife’s Russian programming, not that I’m blaming her or anything), but I’m pretty sure the defense tightened up again when McRoberts came back into the game. He’d been out for a few minutes, and his return seemed to be a spark.

    Maybe someone who still has the game or remembers better than me can confirm or deny.

  • David Macer

    Click on recruiting tab at the top of this site and you can see the scholly sit rep.

  • Missing Moye

    I was wondering the same thing. I don’t think McRoberts earns a scholarship as you hinted at above, strictly because we are so strapped for them. My guess is that a certain junior will graduate after 3 years and forego his last year of eligibility, at least at IU. If either TB or OG goes pro, then we have 3 scholarships to accommodate the 3 signees. That’s assuming Hartman comes back for a 5th year also.

    Now if Tucker signs, as expected, I don’t see a way it all works unless someone transfers, or OG & TB both go pro. If both OG and TB want to come back, now we’re two schollies over and a couple players are going to have to move on.

  • TomJameson

    OG, with the injury is still projected being drafter anywhere from 15 to 30, depending on the severity of the injury. So, worse case is that he goes 30th in the draft. I personally think he would be crazy to not take the money and go. Why risk more injury playing CBB? A team can draft him and stash him for a year, then have one hell-of-a-player at the end of that time. As far as Thomas Bryant is concerned, Pretty sure he’s gone too, and still in the first round.

    Of course both TB and OG might want to come back just to prove something, but I really can’t see them passing up a career opportunity like playing in the NBA.

  • bleeding crimson

    I don’t see OG going Pro this year due to his injury. TB stock has leveled off if not dropped and Davis is on the rise but I believe that neither will go pro after this year unless TB just totally breaks out. I haven’t researched enough to know how thick the class is but I thought 2017 was somewhat large.

  • I’m with you. If OG can get a guaranteed contract, then he should go. If not, then he should come back. I think it’s really that simple for him–but of course that’s me, sitting here at home, not a kid whose entire professional career in a sport he loves hangs in the balance. I can’t imagine how difficult that decision will be for him.

  • bleeding crimson

    You are totally correct. He’s seems to be at the right place at the right time. He dives on the floor, steals the ball, rebounds, block his stats doesn’t reflect much of what he does such as deflections, disruption of passing lanes, etc.
    Same goes for Freddie he gave us some real good minutes. When Morgan comes back we might be OK….I glad he didn’t play.

  • pcantidote

    Unfortunately where I’m at with this team is that the best case scenario is that they keep improving and end up having a decent season but I don’t ever see them having the depth or talent to make a run. Could have been a different story with CH and OG.

    As long as they keep playing hard and competing I’ll stick with them until the bitter end no matter what. I love to watch a team play their butts off like we did yesterday. Go IU.

  • BruceA

    I believe that’s correct. ZM plus/minus very high. CTC substitution patterns pretty good except for having JN and FM in game together. That’s when MSU made comeback in 2nd half

  • Fifer39

    The injuries inevitably meant we played a much shorter bench last night. We’ll be back to a 10 man rotation when JM is back and that’s fine – everyone deserves their minutes, in my view.

    What I think is more significant is the line-ups we use. Last night there were 12 unique line-ups used the entire game. The previous low for the season was 17 and a lot of unique line-ups have been used for very short periods of time, often less than a minute.

    I think this will be interesting to watch going forward. I’m fine with playing 10 deep but would like to see more standard rotations and less frequent subbing. It suggests more guys playing in roles and a move away from this obsession with positionless which can only be a good thing in my book.

    (Stats courtesy of Andy’s Analysis on The Assembly Call)

  • Piker

    Yep. Limit TOs play decent D and the offensive players we have will win …. alot.

  • kaponya44

    First, I don’t want anyone taking this out of context on who I feel is ready to go to the NBA, and who is not .I’m leaving that opinion out of it..I’m just going to add that JBJ tested last year after sitting [edit- sitting out injured] ..James still aspires to go, and if he plays at a high enough level he may feel he is ready ..It is just a possibility among others.

  • SCHoosier

    Future line-ups may depend on the strengths of the opponent. UM for example has five solid starters who can shoot the three every do the first two guys off their bench. The ability to defend the perimeter and still get to the boards could determine the line up. Altho every will get their minutes… question is how many and when. UM fills it up a home…IU will have to match that likely scoring.

  • Fifer39

    I think the assumption is that he’s definitely gone.

  • Fifer39

    Yeah, no problem with the line-ups being situational. I just think we’re past the point they should be experimental. Hard to see much benefit, particularly at this stage, of multiple unique line-ups spending only a posession or two on the floor (other than possibly in end game situations).

  • Outoftheloop

    I noticed Thomas on the court with 4 guards at the end of the game and IU played well, including defensively and rebounding! Any time we play a team known for shooting the 3-ball (i.e. MI), this could be a very effective lineup! Juwan can play like a tall guard when he is healthy again. This team will evolve. I am excited to watch!

  • bleeding crimson

    Who are you referring to? Many names mentioned.

  • Fifer39

    JBJ. I think kaponya was suggesting adding him to the list of potential early leavers but I was guessing neither you nor MM mentioned him because you’re assuming he’s gone. I think he’ll go if he stays healthy, even if it’s in the 2nd round.

  • Ole Man

    OG is gone. Depending on the injury, he is projected either 10-20 or 20-30. TB is gone as he is expected to show 1st round in workouts.
    JBJ is gone because he will not risk another year of injury; and he will not be projected anywhere.
    Davis isn’t going anywhere–he’s far less the prospect than some IU fans want to make him at this time. He’s at least 3 years; good news for us.
    We have one player on scholly who should be academically complete and doesn’t play much, so he might be gone as well.
    Thus, even if CH returns, we should have four scholarships available.

  • Missing Moye

    You are correct, I’m assuming that he will go regardless of whether he’s projected to be drafted or not, much like Troy did last year.

  • Fifer39

    I’d agree that’s probably the most likely scenario at the moment. I wouldn’t put money on having DD for 3 years though. Sure he needs to handle the ball better but he’s got plenty upside and at his size I think he’ll get into late 1st round reckoning at the very least next year.

  • TomJameson

    Agree with all that, except that I might add that JBJ has plenty of time to work himself into the draft. Keep having games like he had against MSU, and it would be hard to keep him off the draft boards.

    And, I know you don’t necessarily agree with this, but his defense is getting better. Not great by any means, but getting better all the time.

  • TomJameson

    Yes, this. JBJ will play somewhere professionally, I’m positive about that. He is too good of a scorer not to find a spot somewhere. Who knows, maybe wherever he lands, somebody can teach him more about defense, and he can transition to the NBA that way. Sort of through the back door.

  • BC Hoosier

    I would agree with you about taking guaranteed money, but I think its entirely to early in the process to say he’s going to get a guaranteed contract. Maybe I look at differently then others, but at this point (January) being projected 15-30 means you’re one pick away from a non-guaranteed contract. Projections now mean nothing. If OG can’t workout for teams it wouldn’t surprise me to see him slide on many boards.
    With all that said, it only takes one!

  • TomJameson

    Come on BC, nobody said he’s “going to get” a guaranteed contract. I said that is the projection right now, by NBA scouts no less. Maybe that legitimizes the guesses a bit, but still nobody would argue that it’s all conjecture at this point.

    But then again, Isn’t almost everything any of us say or talk about, conjecture? 🙂

  • Speed

    I kept waiting for a repeat of the Penn State finish but the guys did a great job finishing out the game. Kudos!

  • Bruce Clark

    My thoughts exactly about JM. JB and RJ are looking very good; put JM in the backcourt/at the 3 position and go with TB and DD up front. Green looks good also and McRoberts will be a good role player, so with the 3 other guards we have, depth still decent.

  • KingofKentucky

    The number of unique lineups is an interesting stat. I wonder if there’s a significant difference in the number of unique linups used in wins vs losses?

  • Chappy Dan

    The thing is, the NBA doesn’t care if they scoop up an OG and he doesn’t pan out. On the other hand, OG can become a legend at IU!

  • cbags05

    Agreed. Same thing against PSU.

  • Fifer39

    Very true. Kind of sad to think about the great players who leave early only to kick about in the d league when you think of the contribution they could’ve made in college. They’re making money of course, and that’s an important thing.

  • BigRed74

    I think we are forgetting that one of O.G.’s parents is a teacher at IU correct? Could be a swaying point to stay his junior year and receive a degree first.

  • sd chuck

    Good game by all! Great to see everyone finding a way to contribute!

  • N71

    We’re not better by any means without OG now but if you look at our guard situation, we’re pretty solid with 5 guys, all healthy. Our front line is good as well talent wise but a little thin, 3 guys essentially. We’re remarkably thin on the wing though, Zack McRoberts is suddenly essential if Freddie isn’t going to be any more productive. Zack is doing his part in spades, Freddie must put it together and start contributing at a high level, that would help cover the gap we have. I think we could be ok, just different. I don’t want to see Curtis Jones having to guard a guy 30 pounds heavier like Hartman had to do a couple years back and get hurt.

  • No. His father is a business professor in Missouri.

  • Ole Man

    I do think Jame’s D has improved, drastically.
    It had nowhere to go but up. LOL!

  • TomJameson

    Hahahaha … I have to agree with that.

  • ArghSonOfOhCrap

    Ole Man – In the NBA you only have to play D towards the end of the games and during the playoff so I honestly think JB is gone.

    His ball handling and D has improved and he is a pure scorer

  • mharv2631

    Right. About the 13:30 mark when Crean had only one player on the floor that was a threat to score, and that was RJ.

  • ahal14

    What Crean doesn’t understand is Indiana needs a tough White boy, preferably from the state of Indiana, who hustles, defends and rebounds to complement the athletes. Knight understood this very well. His teams always featured this type of player. That’s why Knight got a lot of support from Hoosier nation because this Indiana kid plays great fundamental basketball. Of course the Mays, the Thomases win awards but this Indiana kid is the one that holds the team together. Zach McRoberts fits this to a T and that’s why this team is having its recent success because McRoberts is understanding and embracing his role with greater confidence with each game.

    Before you lambast me by calling me a racist, let’s just say I’m neither Black nor White and I came to love basketball by way of attending IU in the 80s and I saw Isiah et al winning the NCAA Championship in 81.

    A few years back, through Internet, I am following the Hoosiers again half the world away almost always waking up in the early hours just to watch IU play.

    Cheers y’ all!

  • Hoosier Hall

    I agree on OG. I think he will still go in the top 20. Not so sure about Bryant though. He isn’t that athletic and has very little lateral quickness. His best attributes are a high motor and pretty good shot for a big guy. He might stick around…

  • WhatsUpKnight2.0

    i get what you’re saying, role players are a vital part of any team. i still remember how important guys like eyl and hillman were to that ’87 team, irregardless of ethnicity. in fact, i can see FMcS slowly morphing into that role. i said at the beginning of the season he needs to be a formidable physical presence (i.e. defendrebound) and he needs to be an opportunistic scorer. i think the past couple games he’s shown just that. those two rebound dunks were friggin fantastic!

  • Hardwood83

    I agree with many others- that JBJ, OG and TB will likely depart. James has shown what he can do and has improved. I’d love for him to return, but he must be close to graduating and will get paid to play someplace next year. As for OG and Thomas, I don’t believe either one is even close to NBA ready. The likelihood they’ll declare shows that the NBA would rather draft a young guy that MIGHT develop into a great player (potential!) instead of an older kid that has PROVEN he is already very good. NCAA fans aren’t any better since many of us would rather have unproven (but highly ranked) recruits over current roster guys- whoever they are.

  • John D Murphy

    I get so sick hearing about the lack of D in the NBA. BS. Teams over .500 play good D. They play very complex, situational by player combinations D that nobody in college plays. They cover roughly an extra 1/3 of space because of the shooters and they can’t get all grabby like a Butler or Louisville because that is called. They understand when they are beaten and don’t get stupid fouls that get people hurt like the NCAA. That being said they also appreciate scoring, especially in the 2nd unit. The NBA season has a lot of minutes that have to be filled and a guy like JBJ who can score can probably find the floor.

  • John D Murphy

    Bingo. JBJ and RJ should not be on the bench together.