Michigan State is winning games with different players carrying them at different times.
Depending on the game, it might be seniors Adreian Payne and Keith Appling that take control; or talented sophomore guard Gary Harris.
But on Saturday it two players that left Indiana for college that got the best of Tom Crean and the Indiana Hoosiers in their return home as Indiana natives Branden Dawson and Harris helped pace the No. 5 Spartans to a 73-56 win over Indiana in a Big Ten road win.
In restoring Indiana Hoosier basketball back to Sweet 16 appearances and a Big Ten title, Indiana head coach Tom Crean has done a great job keeping in-state talent home and building around local talent. But Crean and Indiana can’t keep every great player to come out of basketball-crazy Indiana home and on Saturday the Hoosiers fell victim to a great performance by two of its native sons that got away.
Despite a mediocre effort from Adreian Payne — who was limited to six points and saddled with foul trouble — the Spartans showed why they might be the best team in the country as Dawson and Harris stepped up in a big way on the road in front of a hostile crowd.
Booed during pre-game introductions, Harris scored 17 first-half points, but in the second half, it was the sophomore’s five-point play after being fouled on a made three-pointer — and an ensuing technical foul — that put Michigan State comfortably ahead for good with a 55-41 lead with 8:17 remaining.
The five-point play capped off a ridiculous nine-point run for Harris that started with a steal from Indiana guard Jonny Marlin that resulted in a thunderous dunk. Harris finished with 26 points for the contest.
Also stepping up was junior forward Branden Dawson. Dawson was a step above his usual mega glue guy role, going 6-for-7 from the field to finish with 13 points, while also going for three steals, two blocks and wrecking havoc on the defensive end.
Between Harris and Dawson, the two combined for eight steals and played with a tremendous amount of energy on both ends of the floor.
With senior point guard Keith Appling (14 points) also having a great second half, Michigan State was clearly the superior team in nearly every facet of the game against a young Indiana team.
The win on Saturday showed that even when Adreian Payne has an off-night — and he is prone to inconsistent play at times — Michigan State can still roll on all cylinders because so many different players can step up and make plays for them.
On a day where No. 1 Arizona and No. 2 Syracuse both received scares from inferior teams at home, Michigan State took care of business on the road with a comfortable win.
The Spartans are finally getting healthy and right now they look like the best team in the country.