Hoosiers respond but still fall to Michigan State, 71-66

WHAT HAPPENED: Indiana took a 28-27 lead into halftime and led Michigan State by as many as five points in the second half, but still fell 71-66 in front of 14,797 at the Breslin Center.

The Hoosiers fell to 12-7 overall, 2-4 in the Big Ten losing their second straight game after defeating Wisconsin last week. Michigan State improved to 18-1, 7-0.

A 10-2 run by Indiana gave the Hoosiers a 46-41 advantage with 11:54 to go, but Michigan State’s Gary Harris keyed a 21-6 run to put the Spartans up 62-52. Indiana went from the 10:10 mark to the 2:59 mark of the second half without a field goal before IU sophomore point guard Yogi Ferrell finally answered with a 3-pointer. The Hoosiers were down 65-59 with 1:05 to go and the ball, but Ferrell travelled, then waited until the 51-second mark to foul IU senior point guard Keith Appling. Appling hit a free throw to make it 66-59.

Ferrell hit a 3-pointer with 36 seconds left to make it 66-62 with 36 seconds left and freshman guard Stanford Robinson scored on a driving layup with 16 seconds left to make it 67-64, but Michigan State guards Travis Trice and Denzel Valentine hit four free throws in the final 16 seconds to seal the victory. 

WHO MADE IT HAPPEN: After a 23-point performance that Michigan State coach Tom Izzo called his best game on Saturday against Illinois, Harris had another brilliant outing with 24 points on Tuesday. Twenty of those came in the second half on 6-for-8 shooting, including 4-for-5 from beyond the 3-point arc. The Hoosiers played solid defense on most of Michigan State’s players, but they got caught up in just enough screens against Harris to allow him to go off, answering seemingly every run Indiana made in the second half. He also had five steals in the game, adding to his reputation as one of the better wing defenders in the Big Ten.

Junior forward Branden Dawson posted 13 points and nine rebounds, including five points in Michigan State’s game deciding run. He was 5-for-7 from the field. Trice had 10 points and three assists and drilled two important 3-pointers and Valentine added 10 points, seven rebounds, three assists and two steals.

Indiana freshman forward Noah Vonleh finished with 13 points and 13 rebounds for his second straight-double double and shot 6-for-8 from the field. He had just three field goal attempts in the second half, however. Sophomore point guard Yogi Ferrell scored 19 points, but was just 4-for-13 from the field, including 2-for-6 from beyond the arc. He got to the free throw line and made nine of his 10 attempts but continues to struggle at finishing at the rim.

WHY DID IT HAPPEN: Gary Harris was of course, the biggest reason why. The Hoosiers generally did a good job of sticking to the game plan on defense, using 2-3 zone on occasion to clog the paint, but also rotating quickly to cut off driving lanes and get to shooters, making it difficult for Michigan State to get a flow for extensive periods. Senior guard Keith Appling had eight points and six assists but was 2-for-10 from the field and the Hoosiers made sure no one else beat them extensively. Center Matt Costello was just 2-for-6 and didn’t find life easy and Denzel Valentine was just 2-for-6 from the field. Indiana freshman guard Stanford Robinson got caught on a couple of screens, but mostly Harris just hit big shots.

The Hoosiers, though, missed on a number of opportunities. They turned the ball over 18 times. Michigan State only scored 15 points off of those turnovers, but the Spartans finished with 22 points on fast breaks between those turnovers and Indiana’s missed shots.

Indiana also struggled to make shots at the rim. The definition of “layup” in the official scorebook is a loose one, because it mostly qualifies just about any shot within five feet as a layup and doesn’t take into account the degree to which it might be challenged or off-balance. But using that as at least a reference point, Indiana missed 16 so-called layups on Tuesday night, and making any of those would’ve been a significant difference. All told, the Hoosiers finished 20-for-46 from the field (43.5 percent) when that number could have been much higher.

WHAT DOES IT MEAN: The good news for the Hoosiers is simply that they responded. They were playing without senior forward Will Sheehey, who managed to play through the end of the Northwestern game on an injured ankle on sheer adrenaline but apparently was never particularly close to playing in this one. They didn’t allow the Northwestern loss to turn into a second loss, they just so happened to be playing against the No. 3 team in the nation on its home floor on a night where the Big Ten Preseason Player of the Year and a likely NBA lottery pick was on fire. There were a number of things the Hoosiers could take that they can build on from this one.

But that being said, it’s still a loss in a game that they had a chance to win. The Northwestern loss will be an albatross on Indiana’s resume the whole way and an upset in East Lansing would’ve done a lot to lessen its effect. To date, the Spartans appear to be the Big Ten’s closest thing to a true national championship contender with both Ohio State and Wisconsin hitting rough patches, so a victory in this one would’ve carried a long way. It wasn’t a game Indiana could expect to win, but it would’ve made a huge difference if the Hoosiers did.

WHO SAID WHAT: I’m feeling lazy, so I present audio.

AUDIO: Tom Izzo

AUDIO: Tom Crean

AUDIO: Yogi Ferrell and Noah Vonleh