IU take-aways: Indiana 67, Michigan State 63

IU came through in ‘winning time.’

The Hoosiers had beaten ranked opponents, and they had found ways to win close games.

But not until Thursday, when they battled No. 11 Michigan State down the stretch, had those two circumstances met with such intensity.

IU wasn’t holding a double-digit lead, as they did on Florida State or Ohio State. They weren’t rallying to squeak by UConn, Nebraska or Notre Dame. This one came down to the wire, requiring singular plays on each end of the floor against a team more than capable of shutting them down.

But when IU needed a shot, Al Durham provided it. When IU needed a stop, freshman Trayce Jackson-Davis switched on a ball screen to face Spartan star Cassius Winston, denying a 3-point look and swatting away Winston’s lob on a drive.

Composed in the clutch, the Hoosiers showed a maturity that can serve them well in the remainder of this Big Ten season. Five wins down, they need just five more to guarantee a .500 season in a brutal conference.

“We have good camaraderie as a team,” IU coach Archie Miller said. “We have some poise that in tough spots we can come back and hang in there. Obviously, we’re not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but I think our team believes if we do what we need to do and play hard and compete, we can beat anybody.”

While their imperfections — mainly on the offensive end with ball security and shooting lulls — do leave some room for concern, the Hoosiers’ five-game winning streak over ranked opponents at home provides a window into their potential.

In winning time, Miller’s squads have proven capable of pulling through. Now, it’s just about developing some consistency within a team that’s still young in many aspects. There’s no better test of that than the Hoosiers’ next opponent, No. 17 Maryland, on Sunday.

“I think the guys that were here last year understand how hard it is to win. And you can’t take it for granted,” Miller said. “And you can’t have any slippage when it comes to the daily process. I thought our guys have done a really nice job in the last month, win or lose, of just having a really good approach to the process.”

Joey Brunk is providing a crucial veteran piece.

While many of the Hoosiers’ veteran returnees seem to have absorbed lessons from a year ago, one player who wasn’t around for the ups and downs of 2018-19 has added something just as important to the mix.

Brunk, the grad transfer from Butler, not only added a team-high 14 points and six rebounds against the Spartans. It’s the intangibles he adds throughout the game, before and after, and even at practice, that makes him special.

Jackson-Davis called him an “energy-giver.”

“His everyday approach is something, as a coach, you marvel at, the work ethic,” Miller said. “There’s no fake work ethic. … He’s at it every day.”

The work started for Brunk the moment he stepped on campus, winning the program’s “belt” as the offseason workout champion. He’s gone from doubling his bench-press reps in the weight room to providing contagious energy on the court, which was especially crucial against a physical Michigan State team.

“Bet on yourself” is a slogan Brunk chose to live by when he decided to step up to the challenge of Big Ten post play. Like any other first-year player, he had to learn the Hoosiers’ system and style of play.

But as the weeks pass, it seems more and more evident that Brunk’s bet has paid off, for himself and IU.

“He’s improved as much as any player I’ve been around from month-to-month,” Miller said. “I mean, he has absolutely brought us production that just means the world. To have that type of size, his ability level, he can score the ball. He moved tonight on ball screens as well as he has all year. But to say he hasn’t impacted our team immensely would be an understatement.”

The Hoosiers have to get on track at the FT line.

The overall result was what the Hoosiers needed, but there is one number that has to improve: 11-of-20.

That was IU’s success rate from the free throw line Thursday, and it’s continuing a troubling trend. The Hoosiers have missed seven or more free throws in six of their last seven games. In their last four, they have hit 53-of-88 (60.2 percent) from the line.

Redshirt freshman Jerome Hunter, by hitting two free throws at the end of the MSU game, wasn’t just giving the Hoosiers more cushion.

“Jerome sort of took the anxiety out of the building with making two free throws,” Miller said. “Most important two of the game went in.”

What’s next?

Maryland, 1 p.m. Sunday, at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall

For the second time this season, the Hoosiers will get a second matchup with a Big Ten opponent.

The first time, facing Nebraska in a rematch, IU showed improvement in a big win away from Assembly Hall. How far can the Hoosiers come against Maryland, a squad that dismantled them in the second half of a Jan. 4 road game?

The concerns are the same. Sophomore forward Jalen Smith’s length inside can be hard to handle, especially since he can stretch out and hit shots deep, as he did on the Hoosiers the first time. Anthony Cowan Jr. is one of the better scoring guards in the Big Ten.

And then there’s Aaron Wiggins, who was at one point hitting 28.8 percent from 3. He has hit 10-of-21 (47.6 percent) in his last three games.

13 comments

  1. This one will be another real test as to how well this team can learn from experience. For the guys which make up most of the team, it was their first experience actually playing at Maryland (JB, TJD, AF, JH, RT, RP, others?), and again playing against a good team in a hostile environment. This one will be interesting as will wisky at the end of the year for the same reason. Even more so, how will the team react on the road against teams they beat at AH. Will how they played Nebraska the 2nd time repeat itself on the road against OSU, MSU, and others? Now that this team has a little more familiarity with Maryland and what they can do, it will be interesting to see the results in the much more favorable confines of AH.

    1. I’m always a bit leery of Sunday games….Don’t like the Sunday crowds in March Madness as well. Weekends are winding down. Hangovers are hanging around…. and many students already have Monday classrooms, exams, papers….on the brain.
      Hope we have the same energy in the building that we had against MSU. Rather blasé crowds are worse than playing in hostile environments.

      I don’t think the Hoosier fans will let us down….Very important game. Back-to-back against strong opponents will be a sign of maturity.

  2. They know when they play well enough to beat a good team (MSU not great team) they have fan support at the gym.
    Teams that win on the road separate themselves. If you win on the road pretty much says you very seldom if at all get beat at home which equals championships.

  3. There was one play during the Michigan State game which clarified “thinkaboutit”s precient observation “Friendly confines of AH.”

    The white center for Michigan State was on a fast-break down the middle of the lane, with Joey Brunk (who I really like, H4h called it first) behind him.

    Joey had no chance to stop the play, so Joey put both of his hands in the middle of the Michigan State’s player’s back and pushed him. The Michigan State player missed the lay-up. No foul.

    Now, when this is done at the SRSC or the HPER this leads to angry words and sometimes a fight, and it should. Pushing a player (with both hands!) in the middle of the lower back when they are attempting a lay-up is a dirty play.

    But we are allowed to do this in Assembly Hall because of our massive fan base and rabid student section. It is fascinating to watch, but is not really basketball.

    We get to see Basketball when I.U. goes on the road. And we’ll see how that plays out.

    Beat Maryland!

  4. I’m really beginning to wonder about you, Rock. You’re sounding at times as if you have a case of Dakich’s West Lafayettitis with the “no such thing as an Indiana foul” in Assembly assertions.
    I don’t think Joey Brunk plays the game of basketball “dirty” in any manner.

    I’m sure I look through as biased eyes as the next fan, but I didn’t notice blatantly missed calls or anything dirty in Thursday’s game.

    Don’t mess with the Brunk. He’s bigger than you…and me….and everyone.

  5. If you notice, Cassius is quite a bit in front of the play(Durham forcing him right and sealing the lane quite well until the last moment). The trailing MSU player is beginning to gather himself just beyond the free throw line (in other words, he’s easing on the brakes because Winston is looking back)…Brunk then puts his hands down in preparation to slow down and protect himself (a natural instinct…he’s a big man). The MSU player does not lunge forward as if he’s pushed with any force. Brunk’s hands slip off quickly…

    Is there something very slight there? Maybe. Was it enough to warrant a whistle in real time? I beg to differ because I don’t see a lunge forward as if pushed. I still don’t call it “dirty”…and certainly don’t see it as blatant. But if you see it that way, I’ll happily grant such an opinion to you. The Butler did it!
    Lastly, if Joey can gather himself and push that softly, then I hope he transfers such body control and touch to his jump shot.
    .
    But I’ll reluctantly keep an eye on Joey….I once had an inherent inclination to not trust people named Joey. It started with a letter and a bean-spiller from Marquette.
    I was attempting to not carry such a prejudice over to our fine developing center from Butler. Thanks for ruining that with your very perceptive jury, judge and executioner observations. Let me know if he farts the wrong way today. We’ll begin finding jurors for a trial….

  6. But the bigger question, Rock….Did you open the link (dark red font) in my 1:22 am post clearly showing Joey pushing out a big red head and stealing his signature 70’s groove (in retaliation for all those hacks against Downing never called and costing us a banner) ?
    And, do you endorse the band? Could the band represent a mythical force of equilibrium in natural order and a return to a Final Four? Or, do you have Los Angelesititis…? Secititis (a.k.a. SEC-ititis)? Brunkititis?

  7. Enter Steve Alford and the great Tyra Buss. Push or no push…blatant or not doesn’t matter. IU won the game. The IU gym is not where other teams should be allowed to tread.

  8. https://videorulebook.nba.com/archive/defensive-foul-in-the-post-two-hands-by-post-defender/

    And I’m with you, t…The IU gym is not where other teams should be allowed to tread, indeed.

    I was just using that one play as an example. There are a multitude in any IU home game, and Archie Miller has the guts to state it. WE get more calls than other home teams because of our massive national support and rabid student section. It’s “part of the game” but is not really Basketball. We get to see Basketball when IU goes on the road, and we’ll see how good this team really is this week. I’m pumped.

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