At the end of an emotional week, one that saw them go on without two of their core players, the Hoosiers showed their heart.
It was revealed in the way Zach McRoberts jumped and dove for hustle players, in the way James Blackmon Jr. refused to miss big shots and in the way this team closed after letting another large lead whittle down to a couple possessions.
It all added up to an important 82-75 win over Michigan State on Saturday before an energetic announced crowd of 17,222 at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall.
The Hoosiers (14-6, 4-3), who played without the services of both OG Anunoby and Juwan Morgan, have now won four of their last five games entering a stretch of back-to-back road games beginning Thursday at Michigan.
Blackmon was outstanding, tying his career high with 33 points. He had 16 of those in the first nine minutes, making each of his first six shot attempts, including four 3-pointers. His first miss of the game didn’t come until the 4:47 mark of the first half.
All told, Blackmon made 11 of his 16 field goals.
While Blackmon’s star-power was on full display, Michigan State’s Miles Bridges struggled to get going over a sustained stretch. Despite finishing with a double-double of 13 points and 10 rebounds, Bridges, the Spartans super freshman, connected on only four of his 17 field goal attempts.
With Anunoby and Morgan unavailable, McRoberts made his second start of the season and gave IU some punch with his constant activity on both ends of the court. While McRoberts was on the floor for his 32 minutes of action, IU outscored Michigan State by a team-best 14 points.
Playing connected basketball, and hitting 50 percent of their first-half shot attempts, the Hoosiers seized momentum and an early advantage. IU committed only five first-half turnovers, none of which came in the final 10 minutes of the period. Indiana finished with nine turnovers.
Even as IU cooled late in the first half, missing four of five shots at one point, Michigan State couldn’t make a dent in the Hoosier advantage while going four minutes without a field goal.
At times, IU stagnated in the second half. That, along with a barrage of 3-pointers from Michigan State, allowed the Spartans to get as close as four points with five minutes remaining.
But Indiana clamped down, holding Michigan State to two field goals in the final five minutes.