The Minute After: Michigan State

  • 01/24/2020 12:06 am in

Thoughts on a 67-63 win against the Spartans:

Unlike other Indiana foes this season, Tom Izzo and the Michigan Spartans decided not to be so egregious with their defense on Indiana’s bigs. There were no constant, strong double and triple teams against the likes of Joey Brunk  and Trayce Jackson-Davis to start this one. And so with a rocking Indiana faithful behind the Hoosiers at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall, IU busted out to an impressive lead. The energy and effort from the Hoosiers, their ability to play their game on their home court,  knocked the Spartans back on their feet — hard.

Indiana busted out to a 15-point lead with 9:07 to go at 25-10. The Hoosiers were getting what they wanted as Michigan State was shellshocked and struggling to get things together. But as we know, Indiana’s days of the cupcakes are over. This was the Michigan State Spartans, a former preseason No. 1 and currently the top team in the conference with perhaps the most dynamic player in the league in Cassius Winston. Sure, Michigan State has had its struggles at times this season. But an easy cruise to a victory in this one was unlikely.

And so as the game rolled along, the Spartans began to find their footing. Indiana’s 15-point lead was cut to seven at half. And out of halftime, Michigan State was money. The Spartans hit their first five 3-pointers in the second half and no longer were shook. But Indiana didn’t wilt. The Spartans grabbed their first lead of the contest at the 11:06 mark on a Rocket Watts 3-pointer to go up 51-48. The game continued to seesaw from there with ties and lead changes over the next several minutes. But when it came down to winning time when it mattered most, the Hoosiers were able to make just enough of the plays down the stretch to seal this one up.

It started with an Al Durham 3-pointer. Durham hit 2-of-3 from distance tonight, but none bigger than the aforementioned go-ahead with 1:52 to go. Xavier Tillman scored soon after to draw the Spartans within a point at 63-62. On Indiana’s next possession,  Rob Phinisee was blocked on an attempt at the rim, but Brunk was in the right place at the right time to grab the ball near the basket and put it in for two points to punch Indiana’s lead out to 65-62. A Winston 1-of-2 trip from the line on the other end pulled the Spartans within two points at 65-63. Indiana’s ensuing possession saw the Hoosiers trying to get the ball into Jackson-Davis. But Phinisee’s entry was snuffed out a little too much by the Spartans for a turnover.

Michigan State was able to get Winston isolated on Jackson-Davis on the left wing on the ensuing possession and he drove on him. But Winston, once near the bucket, decided to lean back a bit for an alley-oop to Tillman across the lane. Jackson-Davis was there to break up the pass and Jerome Hunter pulled down the ball from there. He hit two at the line and that was pretty much it, a four-point victory against MSU complete.

Indiana had its faults in this one. It shot just 11-of-20 (55 percent) from the free throw line. And its shooting cooled off in the second half (40 percent). But it did well in other areas. In a season they’ve started to really struggle taking care of the ball, the Hoosiers turned it over just eight times for a turnover percentage of 12.5. That mark was a season best. Brunk (14 points, 7-of-12) and Jackson-Davis (12 points, 5-of-12) were great. Race Thompson also had a solid first half (four points, four rebounds, two blocks, two steals) before landing hard on his back late in the first half and never returning. Winston did lead all scorers with 17 points, but Indiana guarded him well for long stretches in this one.

Wins are going to be tough to come by the rest of the way, but Indiana came to play tonight against the top team in the conference for the W. This marks three straight wins now against Michigan State. Not bad. Not bad, indeed.

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