For the first 30 minutes or so over the game, Indiana played like a team who was hungrier and wanted to win more than Michigan State. Playing shorthanded without Will Sheehey and coming off of a loss to Northwestern over the weekend, the Hoosiers figured to stand little chance against the No. 3 team in the country — even with the Spartans playing without Adreian Payne for the fourth straight game — yet, they eventually succumbed, 71-66.
For the first half, it was your typical Big Ten game that many are so used to watching — reminiscent more of a boxing match between two heavyweights than a track meet. Without Payne in the middle, Indiana delivered more blows with freshman Noah Vonleh dropping in nine points and six rebounds in the opening half.
The game was an eyesore, but the Hoosiers couldn’t care less about that. They led 28-27 in a game they really had to have.
They seemed to be outplaying Michigan State: getting to more loose balls, closing out on the defensive end better, and were simply tougher — something very difficult to do against a Tom Izzo team. This carried over to the second half, but then the bucket closed up and the Spartans took advantage.
After a Troy Williams layup made it 46-41 Indiana, Michigan State scored 11 points in an 81 second span to take a 52-48 lead; they wouldn’t trail the rest of the way.
Vonleh was terrific tonight, but Indiana didn’t feature him nearly as much as they should have. He had a double-double (13 and 13), but only took eight shots. The Hoosiers let the game get away from them midway through the second half when they didn’t get settled on offense, rushed shots, and didn’t go inside to Vonleh.
Indiana’s failures during this stretch aside, Gary Harris was tremendous. He stepped up in a big way in Payne’s absence. The sophomore had 24 points, 20 of which came in the second half.
On the broadcast, ESPN’s Mike Tirico asked his partner, Dan Dakich, whether Michigan State had an “igniter” — a player who could be depended on each and every night to light a fire under his teammates. Do the Spartans have a player of this sort? More importantly, do they need one?
Tonight, Harris was that player. To go along with this scoring output, he was a menace on the defensive end with five steals.
In all, there were 32 turnovers between the teams, 18 of which were committed by the Hoosiers. Taking care of the basketball has been an issue for Indiana all season, and they weren’t about to upset Michigan State tonight with 18 turnovers.
Michigan State’s next game comes at home against their rival Michigan on Saturday — a game that is shaping up to be the weekend’s best.