On Sunday, the 13th ranked Michigan State basketball team made their way to Bloomington to take on the 7th ranked Indiana Hoosiers for a big time, mid-season matchup. Both teams were jostling for position at the top of the Big Ten conference and as a result, we saw possibly one of the best college basketball games of the year.
Out of the gate, the game began very differently than any other Big Ten game has this year in the sense that both team’s offenses were absolutely on fire. Michigan State finished the game with 11 3-pointers, while Indiana finished with 8 of their own.
In the early going of this back and forth offensive game, things didn’t look so good for Michigan State. With about 8 minutes to go in the first half, Michigan State junior guard Keith Appling picked up his second foul and was sent to the bench for the remainder of the half. To make matters worse, Indiana was just not missing, and Victor Oladipo was giving the Spartan offense fits, thus sending Indiana out to a nine point lead early, 28-19.
However, Michigan State surged back to take a 31-30 lead off a Gary Harris three pointer. The teams would continue to play a back and forth, offensive minded style right up until the break when Indiana closed out the half with back to back threes to pull ahead 44-38.
In the second half, the intensity of the game picked up considerably as both teams were absolutely playing their hearts out. Bodies were diving after every loose ball as it could be clearly seen that this game mattered a lot to each and every player on the court.
As this game came down to it’s waning moments with the Spartans still trailing the Hoosiers 68-71, a long rebound came out to Michigan State sophomore Branden Dawson. Dawson then flipped it up ahead to freshman Gary Harris, who converted on the fast break layup to cut the Indiana lead to one, 70-71, with 3:33 to go in the game.
A little over a minute later, with Michigan State still trailing 70-72, Michigan State center Derrick Nix and several Indiana defenders were fighting for the ball. With both players tied up and Nix appearing to have been fouled, Nix managed to swing it out to a teammate, only to be called for a travel, giving the ball back to Indiana with 2:07 to go. This questionable call would wind up looming large in the outcome of this game.
In the final two minutes of the game, a struggling Cody Zeller, who had been schooled by the Michigan State bigs the whole game, finally stepped up and made some plays. In crunch time, the 7 foot Zeller drove and hit a layup with 1:39 to play make it a two possession game, 74-70, and also drew a charge on Adreian Payne with 14 seconds left to seal the 75-70 victory for the Hoosiers.
Apart from the questionable calls down the stretch, the game changer in this one would have to be Indiana junior Victor Oladipo. Oladipo’s defensive presence could be felt all day, as he pressured the Michigan State guards into countless turnovers throughout the game. The 6’5″ guard from Upper Marlboro, Maryland finished the game with 21 points on 8-12 shooting, 7 rebounds, and 6 big steals.
For Michigan State, they were lead by both junior Adreian Payne (18 points 3-4 3FG, 9 rebounds), and freshman Gary Harris. Harris, an Indiana native, played outstanding, scoring 21 points, including five 3-pointers, despite being harassed by several “Gary Sucks” chants throughout the afternoon.
But the Spartans were really hurt in this one by the fact that their best player, Keith Appling, had a very rough game. Appling was plagued by foul trouble from the mid-point of the first half and just couldn’t get a steady rhythm going for himself. Appling fouled out with over five minutes to go, finishing with 4 turnovers in just 19 minutes, all the while scoring just three points on 1-4 shooting and zero assists, not exactly the kind of stat line you want your star point guard to have in a game as big as this. In addition to this, Michigan State also struggled to hang on to the ball, turning it over a whopping 19 teams in this game.
Despite this tough loss though, Michigan State still showed in this game that they are a very tough team. They hung tough with a top 5 team all afternoon long, really doing so with out the help of possibly their best player.
All in all, with this tough one put behind them, the Spartans (17-4, 6-2) will need to get back to the grind here and buckle down with a pair of home games against both Illinois and Minnesota. And you can be sure that these guys will go home and mark their calendars for February 19, because that’s when they’ll have another shot at these Hoosiers when they come to East Lansing for what should be another exciting game to watch.
Follow Ryan Squanda on twitter @squandarunner