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Indiana handles Michigan State 82-69: Recap & Analysis

Spartans fall out of 2nd place in the Big Ten

Michigan State v Indiana Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

MSU took the bus down to Bloomington to take on the Hoosiers. Indiana had won 2 in a row coming into this contest, and the announcers today had to repeatedly remind us that our opponents were on a winning streak. Mentioned only once was the fact that MSU had won 8 of their last ten. Coming off a fairly impressive win over Rutgers, this game kind of felt like anyone’s guess.

Game Flow Highlights:

MSU won the opening tip and, on their first possession, we saw AJ Hoggard try to take the ball into the paint, but he could not convert on the pullup. Indiana got the board and tried to run a play to their star, Trayce Jackson-Davis, down low, but he, too, could not get it to go. One of these two occurrences would remain a theme for the entire game. If you were judging from the first 8 minutes, you would have guessed TJD missing down low as he opened the game going 0-4 including a blown dunk. At the other end, MSU was looking to get their big, Mady Sissoko, involved early, and we saw a much calmer and more confident version of him early. When he got the ball on the perimeter, he was dribbling it a few times to keep the offense moving rather than holding it a few seconds and passing it at the first chance he has, like he usually does. And on the couple of opportunities where he was fed down low, he showed some good moves, first scoring over TJD, then drawing a foul and hitting his 2 freebies. Not to be outdone, Joey Hauser was on a mission early, hitting his opening triple, and then scoring on a series of dribble-drives and jumpers. He had 11 points in less than 6 minutes and forced Indiana to call an early timeout with MSU up 9.

We did not see any scoring for a couple minutes after the Hoosiers’ timeout until we reached the under-12 whistle. After that, we had a few minutes of back-and-forth; Indiana would chip away a couple baskets only for Michigan State to respond. This stretch saw Jaden Akins hit the first of his shots today in what was one of his better offensive displays of the season. Still up 9 with less than 8 minutes remaining in the half, the Spartans suddenly lost their defensive precision and gave up 3 consecutive baskets to see their lead shrink to 3 by the time the under-8 whistle was blown. This run by Indiana was preceded by Hoggard picking up his second foul and making his way to the bench for the rest of the half.

Coming out of the commercial, Indiana continued their run and took the lead after a couple free throws by Tamar Bates. Jaxon Kohler would answer with two consecutive scoring plays, continuing his run of good play going back to the Rutgers game. But on the next Hoosier trip, Pierre Brooks foolishly abandoned his man to go double team TJD way out on the baseline, leaving an easy kickout; Tamar Bates would nail the triple to tie the game. This seems like a good time to mention that at this point in the game, Brooks was already 0-3 on his shooting and would get to 0-4 on the very next trip, missing a 3 of his own. He would also add a turnover and a foul in the next couple minutes.

In the last minutes, TJD was already beginning to dominate this game. He would get to the foul line a couple times, once when getting fouled by Kohler on a dunk. Bates would hit another triple. Fortunately for MSU, Hauser would hit 3 of 4 FTs on their last 2 possessions before intermission to keep it close. MSU went to the locker room down 5. Hauser had 14, Kohler 6, and Mady 4 to lead MSU scorers. But Hoggard was out for the final 8+ with foul trouble. Jackson-Davis had 13 points and 6 rebounds to lead the way for the home team.

The second half started off much the way that the 1st half had gone, with MSU fouling TJD and sending him to the line, where he would sink both. But from there, MSU went on a run. Walker hit a jumper, Akins hit a triple, Walker got a layup, and then Akins also got a layup. The Spartans tied the game and the Hoosiers called time.

The scripted play did not go the way Coach Woodson drew it up, as Akins stole a pass and streaked the other way for the dunk and the lead. The Spartan lead lasted just over 20 seconds; Trey Galloway hit a 3 to put the Hoosiers back up by 1 point. AJ Hoggard tried to answer, but had his shot rejected by Jackson-Davis on what was a pretty weak effort in the paint. At the other end, Indiana would miss a shot but Mady fumbled the rebound out of bounds. From here, the teams would then trade FTs and 3s, with Akins and Bates each adding to their totals from deep. But then Indiana would get another trip to the free-throw line and followed it by another Bates 3, and MSU did not match these ones. The Spartans’ deficit suddenly was 6 at the under-12.

The next 4-minute segment was mostly the two teams practicing fouling and shooting FTs, and Indiana grew the lead by one point. After the under-8, Indiana really picked up the intensity and efficiency, making sure MSU would not have a late run in them. They fed TJD down low where he would score 7 points in a little over 2 minutes, and Bates would hit yet another triple, his 5th on 6 attempts. The Indiana lead ballooned to 15 with just over 5 minutes remaining. The game never got back to single-digits and MSU didn’t even bother with fouling late. Indiana won by a final score of 82-69.

Quick Analysis:

I can’t recall a game in recent memory that has toyed with my emotions as much as this one. Early on, I thought MSU was going to run Indiana out of their own building. Then Indiana took a lead late in the first and I thought MSU was going to get blown out. MSU got hot early in the second and I thought maybe we would pull this off after all. And finally I thought, why can’t we keep a man on Bates all the time. I think this game was closer than the double-digit final margin indicates, but it was also a game that MSU deserved to lose. The dynamic duo that is the Spartan backcourt each had their worst game in a long time. While the team’s defense looked good in the early on, as the game progressed, Indiana figured out how to make TJD’s touches as easy as possible. At the same time, MSU’s defense regularly was leaving a very good 3-point shooting tandem of Bates and Galloway open from deep. In the end, this was a game that was lost because MSU just doesn’t have a center remotely near the quality of several Big Ten teams, and with all due respect to Zach Edey, TJD may be the best of the bunch. His performance today - 31 points, 15 rebounds, 5 blocks - made a strong argument for his case.

3 Things I Liked:

  1. Jaden Akins finds his shot. It had been a rough couple weeks for the Spartans wing. In each of his last 6 games, he has shot at 50 % or less (1 game at 50%, the other 5 at 33% or less). Today, however, Akins was hitting them early and often. He would end up as MSU’s 2nd leading scorer, behind the usual Hauser, going 6-8 and 3-4 from behind the arc. Let’s hope this was him getting out of his slump as his outside shooting is needed to help draw defenders out toward the perimeter, which opens up the lane for our bigs and our guards when they want to drive.
  2. Jaxon Kohler continues to show offensive skill. These last two games by Jaxon have been a welcomed development, as he basically represents the only bench scoring this team has at the moment (though if the reports that Malik Hall was warming up today in the pregame are to be any indication, maybe we get some more help very soon). I know in my last game recap I said that I would not be surprised if Kohler gets inserted into the starting lineup. That opinion has not changed. At the very least, I think he will start getting more minutes than Mady (today, Mady had 22 and Jaxon had 18). His arsenal of low post moves just provides this team an added dimension that isn’t present when Mady is on the floor.
  3. I thought about giving the third like to Joey for his offensive showcase today. But no, he had too many negative plays including some weak efforts trying to score against TJD that led to easy blocks, one absolute clown layup attempt, and that inbounds pass that went out of bounds. And with no other worthy nominees, I am going to give today’s third like to the TOC community. You guys really are on it with your enthusiasm and with your help in reporting. I’ll admit, I am not on Twitter, but I saw Dersh’s tweet-share in the thread that Hall was warming up. These things are commonplace here. So I want to say thank you to you all. You make my job easier and more enjoyable.

3 Things I Did Not Like:

  1. Pierre Brooks as cold as a winter night in Iron Mountain. Including today, Brooks has 2 points in his last 6 games. Coming into the season, he was supposed to be one of our best shooters and one of our main reserves. Now, after going 0-5 today, not to mention contributing one turnover, three fouls and a couple of horrible defensive plays where he abandoned a hot shooter to help on a ball handler who did not need to be doubled, I would say a good place for him is in the doghouse. If Malik isn’t ready to start taking minutes in the next game, then either shrink the rotation or play Whitens more minutes. Yes, I know what I said in the last recap about #43 but I’d rather have someone in there who can at least be a net-zero rather than a net-negative. At this point, Brooks needs to start earning his minutes all over again.
  2. Abandoning getting Mady involved. Early on, I thought Mady had read the articles on TOC after the last game and had taken it personally. In the first few minutes, he was getting touches. He was coming out, getting the ball, putting it on the floor, and helping the offensive flow. He also was fed the ball down low on a couple early possessions. But both of these things went away rather quickly. Not sure if it happened when Hoggard went out with his 2nd foul (which could be an explanation why it happened) or if it was even earlier, but Mady not doing anything on offense other than setting high screens is making this team too predictable. On a day when it wasn’t falling for Hoggard and Walker wasn’t getting his shot off, some more low post scoring could have helped.
  3. Free-throws. On the one hand, MSU had 28 attempts, which seems like an enormous number compared to recent games’ totals. On the other hand, MSU only made 19 of those, good for a pathetic 68%. Hoggard and Mady each had an 0-2 trip. Hauser, usually a 90% FT shooter, missed 3 today. Several of these were when the game was still in doubt. Leaving this many points on the floor will demoralize a team. Today, on a day when so many other things were not going right, was the wrong day not to take advantage of the high number of free-throw attempts.

Up Next:

The schedule will start spreading out a little as MSU has 3 full days off before they host Iowa on Thursday night in a game the Spartans need to win to stay in the race for 2nd in the B1G.