If you were to say MSU would go 2-1 against Ohio State, at Wisconsin and at Indiana, you'd take that in a heartbeat.
If you were to say MSU lost by five at Indiana, you'd think was an encouraging performance. And it was.
But after MSU had escaped a bunch of Big Ten games this season, it was about time one went against them. With a chance to possibly jump into the top five, MSU battled Indiana tooth and nail to the end. But the Hoosiers made the final plays, winning 75-70. The Spartans fell to 6-2 in the Big Ten, a half-game behind Indiana and Michigan.
It really was a tremendous basketball game, even if the defense wasn't great. I picked an IU win with a big first-half run that MSU wouldn't be able to answer. MSU got down frequently, but the Hoosiers were never able to deal the knockout punch.
IU jumped out to a 7-2 lead two minutes in, but MSU went on a 9-2 run. IU pushed the lead to 28-19 with 7:50 to go in the first, but MSU went on a 12-2 run to take a 31-30 lead (its last lead of the day). IU led 44-38 at halftime, as Victor Oladipo was causing problems all over the place, recording steals and getting breakaway dunks.
Tom Crean says Victor Oladipo had 15 deflections in the first half, most he's ever gotten from a player in one half.— ZachOsterman (@ZachOsterman) January 27, 2013
Oladipo finished with 21 points on 8-for-12 shooting with seven rebounds, three assists, three blocks and six steals. It was a heat-of-the-moment reaction from a lot of people, but if Indiana wins the Big Ten and Oladipo continues to do this, he'll be in the talk for Big Ten Player of the Year.
IU went up 50-43 with 16:28 to go, but MSU answered with an 8-2 run. The lead was pushed back to 64-58 with 10:55 to go, but MSU cut it to 71-70 with 3:32 to go on a dunk by Gary Harris, but that would be MSU's final points of the night.
The Spartans faced adversity all night, especially with Keith Appling being limited to 19 minutes due to foul trouble. As a result, Travis Trice turned in a career-high 30 minutes. It was a mix of good and bad. The good: five assists, two 3-pointers, seemed to attack the zone better than he ever has. The bad: five turnovers, 3-for-12 from the field, poor defense, allowing a number of open 3s and drives to the hoop.
Those are some big offensive numbers on both sides. It helps when MSU goes 11-for-23 from 3(!) and Indiana goes 8-for-21. I was right and wrong with this.
Given I expect Indiana to use more zone than normal, I'll say MSU's jump-shooting is the key. Picking Indiana by a decent margin.— Chris Vannini (@ChrisVannini) January 27, 2013
I didn't think MSU would be able to shoot over the zone, but they did, and that's what kept them in the game. MSU shot 43 percent (16-for-37) on 2s.
Those turnover numbers, terrible on both sides. There were a number of lazy turnovers from both teams in this one. The offensive rebounding numbers were good for MSU, but so were Indiana's. That's not good when you've got Derrick Nix, Adreian Payne and Branden Dawson all playing more than 30 minutes
That last factor might have been the difference in the game. Indiana went 13-for-20 from the free-throw line, while MSU went 5-for-6. As mentioned, Appling fouled out, but Gary Harris and Nix also recorded four fouls each.
At the end of the game, the officiating certainly seemed to be the story. With MSU trailing 72-70 with less than three minutes left, Dawson took an ill-advised jumper, but Nix got the rebound. Jordan Hulls stuck his hands in and seemed to knock the ball out, but the refs somehow called a travel on Nix. On the other end, Zeller drove to the hoop for a layup to beat the shot clock as Nix got hit by a pretty hard screen from Oladipo. A questionable offense foul on Payne with 34 seconds left all but ended it. There was also an out-of-bounds and 10-second violation on MSU that were quite questionable.
Now, in a tough, close game like that where MSU played well, it's rough seeing the official take over like that, especially in the "Hall of Calls." But it didn't cost MSU the game. As mentioned, MSU only had two leads in the whole game, and none in the second half. As I said with the officiating at the end of the Nebraska football game, it didn't lose the game for MSU, though it certainly hurt their chances of winning it.
-- It really would have been interesting to see how that game would have ended with Appling in there, given his clutch play at the end of games. Still, Appling finished 1-for-3 shooting for three points, with zero assists and four turnovers. Perhaps his worst performance in Big Ten play after a good string of games. He defense wasn't great, either, finishing with zero steals and getting beat to the hoop by Yogi Ferrell a number of times.
-- Adreian Payne continued his hot play with another monster game: 18 points on 7-for-10 shooting, including 3-for-4 from 3 (though the miss was a half-court heave at the end of the game). Suddenly, he's not just a jump-shooting threat, he's a three-point threat, making six straight over the last five games before the final miss. He also had nine rebounds (two offensive), but three turnovers. Though I think this praise is still premature:
Adreian Payne is playing like a lottery pick today.— Jeff Goodman (@GoodmanCBS) January 27, 2013
-- Gary "Gary Sucks" Harris was probably the player of the game for MSU, scoring 21 points on 6-for-13 amidst chants of "Gary sucks" from the Indiana students. Harris went 5-for-10 from three-point range, rebounding from a couple of so-so performances recently. He certainly had a little extra playing back in his home state, especially with the vitriol thrown his way by Indiana fans since he committed to MSU.
As IU fans chanted "Gary Sucks" when Harris was at the foul line, Tom Izzo just shook his head.— Terry Hutchens (@indystar_hutch) January 27, 2013
Gary Harris fouls Jordan Hulls. Now his parents are yelling at fans. His dad looks especially displeased with IU students.— Alex Bozich (@insidethehall) January 27, 2013
--Branden Dawson was active and had a decent game, scoring 12 points on 6-for-10 shooting with eight rebounds (three offensive). He also had two assists and three turnovers.
-- Derrick Nix had an underrated game. He scored eight points on 4-for-8 shooting with five rebounds, but just one of those rebounds was defensive. Still, he had his way with lottery pick Cody Zeller on both ends of the court. Zeller finished with nine points, but shot just 2-for-7 from the field and had seven rebounds and two turnovers.
-- As mentioned above, Travis Trice had to put in extra duty, and had a mixed bag. It was probably more bad than good, but MSU didn't really have a choice. He's now shooting 8-for-43 on 2s (18.6 percent). He went 1-for-7 on 2s on the day, which is bad, but it's also part of his development. He can't just be a three-point shooter. Still, he's going to have to improve on his shot selection, big time.
-- Denzel Valentine played 18 minutes, going 0-for-2 on 3s, including an airball on a 3 at the end of the first half that led to a 3 for Indiana before the buzzer. He had one assist and one turnover. Even with Appling on the bench, Valentine didn't get much play in the offense, though that could be because of his own play and not just Izzo's decision.
Given five players played more than 30 minutes and this was a 69-possession game, it really was an incredible offensive performance for MSU to stay in the game. The defense was not good at all, and MSU couldn't slow it down, even when they tried.
As for the uniform, it grew on me as the game went along, though only as a one-time thing. I still didn't like the logo on the front or "Spartans" on the name plate. The shoes/socks combo looked like they had been playing in the mud, but overall, it wasn't as bad as I expected.
Moving forward, MSU is 6-2 in the Big Ten. If MSU really is a Big Ten contender, it has to win the next three games: vs. Illinois, vs. Minnesota, at Purdue. Though the stats aren't exactly warming, as I detail in Monday's Freep column, the Spartans have just been answering the bell. But they can't have a let down in the next three if they are to win the Big Ten. Because after that are two games against Michigan, a road trip to Ohio State and a home visit by Indiana and Wisconsin. They made it through the first "easy" stretch and went 2-1 in this difficult stretch. Now that momentum has to continue into this next stretch.
They should be rested. After five games in 13 days, MSU will have played just one game from Jan. 23 to Jan. 30.
Indiana fans, meanwhile, will be keeping it classy. #GarySucks