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Roller Coaster - MSU 80, Indiana 65

In a game that featured big scoring runs by both teams, Michigan State prevailed for a tough home win in their Big Ten conference opener, handing Indiana its first loss of the season. The Spartans landed the first blow, pushing a 19-14 lead to 34-16 with just over 5 minutes left in the first half. The Hoosiers responded immediately with 3 straight threes to start a 38-11 surge that spanned halftime and resulted in a 54-45 Indiana lead. But back came the Spartans, who delivered the knockout punch with a 20-0 run that Indiana was unable to counter down the stretch. It was easily the most breathtaking, intense game of the MSU season and reminded you of just how great in-conference basketball can be.

The initial MSU surge was fueled by hot shooting from the starters and near-flawless half-court defense that forced Indiana into tough shots seemingly every trip. After Keith Appling's three-pointer created the 34-16 lead the Spartans missed their next 7 shots, which seemed affect their defense as well. An Appling layup shortly before the half broke the string and made it a 7-point MSU lead at the break.

Indiana roared out of the locker room for the second half, scoring the first 12 points. At this point they were on a 25-2 run and MSU seemed to have no answers for Christian Watford and Victor Oladipo, athletic players who seemed to be scoring at will. But the lockdown defensive intensity returned for MSU and the ensuing 20-0 run was enough to put Indiana away for good.

There was a bit of amused tweeting during the game about just how wild the Ken Pomeroy win-probability graph for this game would look. That graph will likely not be up until later, but here's the game flow diagram that gives you a bit of the same flavor:

More graphs and player notes after the jump.

According to this was a 66-possession game, so MSU managed to hold Indiana to (barely) under one point per possession. While that's not an especially stellar number, it is the lowest efficiency for Indiana so far this year and I'm going to give the offense and defense co-credit for this performance. Aside from the mid-game meltdown, especially the start of the second half, this was a complete performance at both ends for the Spartans.

The four factors graph looks like this:

With an eFG% of 59.4, the Spartans shot the ball very, very well. They shot 60% from two (24-40), 38.5% from three (5-13) and 77.3% (17-22) from the line in just missing another eFG% performance > 60. Meanwhile Indiana only managed 46.9%, a respectable number but, again, their second-lowest output of the season.

Indiana helped to keep themselves in this game on the glass. Although MSU "won" the rebounding battle 33-31, Indiana was actually better at both ends, posting a 34.2% OR% and a 69.2% DR%, topping MSU in both categories. There were just more defensive boards available for MSU to grab thanks to their shooting. Indiana was slightly above their season average on the offensive glass and they managed to get 16 second-chance points to the Spartans' 12. They had to send a lot of guys to the glass to get those numbers though, which left them vulnerable in transition, and they largely gave back those extra points by surrendering 17 fast-break points and scoring only 12.

Also notable: an excellent job taking care of the ball by MSU, with only 9 turnovers on the game. They also made their foul shots while sending Indiana, one of the national leaders in free-throw rate coming in, to the line only nine times (14.1 FTR). The official box score is here and the game page is here.

Player Notes

Keith Appling – Just a tremendous game from Appling, who had a career high of 25 points to go with 7 assists and 6 boards. He was one rebound short of leading the team in all three categories and also had an emphatic block of Victor Oladipo in the second half. He did this while running the offense, continually forcing the pace and driving into the lane, and playing tireless on-ball defense, primarily on Jordan Hulls, who was held to 4 points, including 0-4 from three. He also hit 9 of his 10 free-throws. An excellent, complete game from Appling, clearly the MVP of the night.

Derrick Nix/Adreian Payne – Indiana freshman star Cody Zeller was almost a complete non-factor this game and Nix and Payne can take much of the credit. He had only 4 points, none in the first half and pulled down only 3 boards. There was a lot of talk after the game about MSU being "physical" with Zeller and "muscling" him in the paint. That was certainly a factor but mainly Indiana just couldn't get him the ball and when they did, he was not getting it deep with a chance to do any damage. On the offensive end Nix/Payne provided the only option that was working when the shooting went south in the second half. They clearly exposed Indiana's weaknesses on the interior and were a crucial part of MSU staying in this game. Nix finished with 14 points and 5 boards while Payne chipped in 8 and 2 in 15 minutes of action. And who can forget Nix leading the fast break after a nifty steal?

Also of note, Draymond Green was his familiar stat-sheet-stuffing self with 11 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 blocks and 2 steals to go with just one turnover. He wasn't able to shut down Christian Watford, but I don't think anyone was going to do that. Watford went for 26, including 4-6 from three. With Appling playing so well Green didn't feel the need to take over and played a steady game within the flow of the offense. Brandon Wood had a quiet but solid 13 points and Branden Dawson was impressive early with a couple of athletic moves at the rim. He faded later on, finishing with 7 points. I was happy to see that of his 4 rebounds, 3 were defensive, which is an area where he should be able to do some more damage.

I was surprised to see that MSU's bench outscored IU's 16-12. During the game it seemed like everything was coming from the starters and, basically, that was true. 14 of those 16 points were from Nix, who actually played 8 more minutes than Payne, the nominal starter. Austin Thornton hit the only other shot from the bench, which is a bit of a concern. Only 9 players appeared in the game and Alex Gauna only went 5 minutes. No appearances by Russell Byrd or Brandan Kearney. Something to keep an eye on.

Overall, however, an excellent start to the conference season, as the Spartans handed the Hoosiers their first loss, ending a 12-game winning streak and extending one of their own. In fact, this is the first streak of 12 since the start of the 2000-01 season. That team was pretty good, as I recall. Next up: on the road to Nebraska, followed by a trip to the dreaded Kohl Center.