Hoosiers suffer Spartan heartbreaker for second straight year, lose by four at home

To say the least, Indiana needed to win this game at Assembly Hall, where Michigan State beat them last year in an overtime affair. Thursday’s 72-68 loss was very detrimental to the Hoosiers’ hopes for getting an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament. The team doesn’t fall in the Big Ten standings as a result of this game and others around the league on Valentine’s Day, but is now tied for fifth instead of alone.

IU and Michigan, which won at Northwestern, are both deadlocked at 7-6 in league games, with a Sunday matchup between the teams set for noon as Indiana celebrates National Girls and Women in Sports Day at Assembly Hall as well as its THINK PINK game to raise support for breast cancer awareness and research. The Wolverines won an earlier meeting this season, 65-54, in Ann Arbor on Jan. 24.

So with four teams ahead of them in the standings and the third-place squad, No. 23 Ohio State, the only ranked among those, the selection committee is going to be hard-pressed to pick the Hooisers unless they win out (5 games, 2 on the road) and make some noise in the Big Ten Tourney in Indy in early March. Remember, the top five seeds only have to play three games instead of four. Can they win out, with games left against the Buckeyes (18-6, 9-4) at home and at Minnesota (18-8, 9-5)? Or, do they have a legitimate chance of winning the Tourney to punch an automatic ticket?

This contest defined a close game. Looking at the box score, there were 14 ties, 16 lead changes, and neither team led by more than six. Every single possession was so important throughout the evening, as player, coach, and fan reactions attested. And it just didn’t seem to be leaning either way until the last minute of play, when Michigan State drained 6-of-6 free throws to ensure a win.

“Those are fun games to be part of,” said first-year MSU coach Suzy Merchant. “Fun for the kids, probably more fun for the fans and the coaches. But I just think it helps define the character of a team when you’re in a battle like that. It’s anyone’s for the taking. Who’s gonna step up and make plays? Who’s gonna take care of the ball? Whether you’re young or a veteran team, I think you have to be put in those situations in order to seal the deal.”

Spartan 6-9 center Allyssa DeHaan started 1-of-8 on shots from the field but finished the game with 16 points, including two huge buckets in the last minute and a half. But, she probably did more damage with her season-high 15 rebounds as Michigan State won the category, 45-31 (16-10 offensive, resulting in a 16-8 advantage on second chance opportunities). In the first meeting, a 14-point IU win in East Lansing, the Hoosiers outrebounded the Spartans, 48-36.

“We knew that their two posts were the top two rebounding combo in the conference,” said DeHaan in reference to Hoosier forwards Amber Jackson and Whitney Thomas, who average a combined 15.7 boards but only got 7 on Thursday. “And we knew that we had to come out and put a body on them and just hit the boards strong. And I think everybody on our team did that well tonight.”

Jackson, standing 6-2, had 13 points and five rebounds, and had this to say about dealing with somebody with a player of DeHaan’s stature. “Pretty much, every team in the Big Ten has somebody who’s fairly taller than me, so it’s something that I just have to deal with and try to face up a little bit more.”

For those of you that saw this game (794 announced attendance), what did you think of DeHaan, who as a sophomore is already a player-of-the-year candidate looking to eventually shatter records for shotblocking in the Big Ten and maybe nationwide (She had four on Thursday)? Did you see her last year? Is she better now? I almost laughed out loud when she walked out of the IU press room because her hair brushed against the top of the doorframe.

And, what was your takes on the two huge calls that swayed the game in Michigan State’s favor? One was the timeout called by Merchant right as the Spartans threw a pass intercepted by Nikki Smith, maybe too late, but apparently not. And the other was the backcourt violation whistled as Smith hustled after an errant pass on the Hoosier end, grabbing the ball right as it was on the halfcourt line. Was it tipped by the Spartans, and if not, did she stop it in time?

Smith, by the way, nailed four 3-pointers in the game and now has 177 in her career, surpassing Heather Cassady (1999-02) and now sitting alone in second on the all-time Hoosier list.

An interesting point raised by some other media members after the game was in regards to IU freshman Haylie Linn, who started for the seventh time this year but then played only six minutes, missing her one shot attempt. She entered the game leading the Hoosiers in 3-point accuracy at 38.2% Odd, I wasn’t aware of an injury or anything. More to come.

One comment

  1. 1. I saw DeHaan last year and several times on TV this year. I don’t see a great deal of improvement. She needs to get stronger, period.

    2. Some incredibly bad calls by the officiating crew. Several went our way during the game but the last two went against us. That didn’t cost us the game.

    3. Why the hell start Haley Linn if you’re only going to play her 6 min. and not start her in the 2nd half? She is an excellent shooter and has to have a chance to get some shots off. I didn’t understand that one.

    4. Team chemistry right now? Roberson’s temper is a detriment to the team, plus she turns the ball over at an alarming rate. Jackson is extremely lazy on the defensive end and on the boards. Coach Jack needs to rip her butt for sure.
    Jamie Braun seems mad all the time. Not good for your best player. Whitney Thomas continues to kill the team by getting in foul trouble. (Whitney, there is no backup power forward right now!!!)

    5. 794 fans for a home conference game when you are only 2 games out of first is disgraceful, pathetic, embarrassing! Nice job by the student body and community on that one.

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