Where: Breslin Center, East Lansing, Michigan
When: 8:00 p.m., EST, Tuesday, March 2, 2021
TV/Radio: BTN/Spartan Sports Radio
Indiana (12-12, 7-10): No. 37 (Kenpom)
1 - Rob Phinisee (6’1” jr), Khristian Lander (6’2” fr)
2 - Al Durham (6’4” sr)
3 - Jerome Hunter (6’7” so), Trey Galloway (6’4” fr)
4 - Race Thompson (6’8” jr), Jordan Geronimo (6’6” fr)
5 - Trayce Jackson-Davis (6’9” so)
Note: it looks like Armaan Franklin is out for the rest of the regular season, so expect Hunter to fill his role, and expect Geronimo to play more than he has of late.
Indiana’s habitual late-season swoon — the Hoosiers are in the midst of a three-game losing streak— began with the Michigan State Spartans’ road win in Bloomington 10 days ago. Since that game, Indiana has lost two tough games at Rutgers and versus Michigan. Needless to say, the Hoosiers will enter this game desperate for a win, with Archie Miller coaching for his job, yet again.
Indiana’s offense, and team, still revolves around the terrific Trayce Jackson-Davis. His low-post acumen, ball-handling, defensive athleticism, and tenacious motor force opponents to spend considerable energy shutting him down, or to focus on limiting the “others.”
Against Rutgers, Al Durham stepped up to provide a second scorer to help keep Indiana in the game until mid-way through the second half, and against Michigan, while TJD struggled against Hunter Dickinson, Michigan’s terrific freshman center, Thompson and Durham chipped in with double-figure scoring nights in a game that was over, early.
Indiana’s defense remains stout in the half-court where the Hoosiers clean up the defensive glass pretty well and block a decent number of shots, and their offense remains potent and geared around TJD and getting to the free-throw line (fun!).
Make Jackson-Davis as inefficient as possible, and do NOT let Durham, Hunter, or Thompson get rolling.
In the first matchup, Aaron Henry, Joshua Langford, and Gabe Brown dominated the game on offense for the Spartans who owned the glass and shot efficiently from everywhere on the floor. While Jackson-Davis did have a career night — scoring 34 points — Marcus Bingham Jr. had a terrific outing on both ends finishing first for the Spartans in box-plus-minus and as one of four Spartans with a positive “net” rating. Getting Bingham as many minutes as possible against TJD will be paramount. Of course Bingham should be quite fresh after essentially getting the night off against Maryland.
In fact, all four of the Michigan State bigs essentially got the night off against Maryland — Bingham, Thomas Kithier, Julius Marble, and Mady Sissoko combined to play eight minutes, with Sissoko getting a Did Not Play-Coach’s Decision (i.e. he was benched by the coaches completely). Against Indiana, the bigs will play, and what was a clear tactical error (in my view) may end up paying dividends against the Hoosiers as the Spartan centers should be fresh, ready to play, and out to limit Jackson-Davis to a less-impactful night than he had in Bloomington.
The game plan will be moot if Henry, Langford, and Brown do not have better nights offensively than they did against Maryland. All three guys looked a bit gassed after playing a ton of minutes in the three-game winning-streak, and all three missed open shots they normally hit. While Indiana will come into the game having had an extra day of rest, and while the Spartans have not had more than a couple of days off in between games for the last couple of weeks, it is reasonable to expect a better outing from the team on offense than we saw against the Terrapins.
Joey Hauser, Henry, Brown, and Langford will need to hit some jump shots, and will need to keep a lid on the hot-and-cold Indiana back-court. If the Hoosiers are not allowed to get a rhythm in their jump shooting, then their offense will fall squarely on TJD, who will have to battle four overly-rested bigs raring to prove their worth.
Another important factor will be Hauser, Rocket Watts, and Malik Hall who have all experienced somewhat of a resurgence in their performances of late (over the balance of the last four games). If Hauser and Hall can perform well against Thompson, and can combine for something like 18 points and 12 rebounds, with sundry other statistical contributions, then that will alleviate the pressure on the Michigan State back-court.
I expect another close contest, but I do expect a Spartan victory. MSU knows how difficult the Michigan series will be to close the regular season, Aaron Henry will be out to own the Hoosiers for a second consecutive game, and the Spartan front-court should be eagerly anticipating this opportunity to win a game for the team.
Practice your free throws, Spartans, this will be an ugly game with both teams in the bonus mid-way through each half.
MSU 69 IU 65
Players play. Tough players win.