For the first time ever, Michigan State Basketball hosts a Top 5 game in which No. 1 Indiana took on the No. 4 Spartans at the Breslin center in East Lansing, MI. In total, MSU has competed in nine games involving two teams ranked in the AP top 5. In these particular match ups the Spartans have come out with a record of 3-6 in the top 5 games, including tonight’s loss. Not only were they playing a top 5 team tonight, they took on the Number 1 team in the NCAA. When playing the No. 1 ranked team, MSU has developed a 3-19 record against the leaders.
Indiana (24-3, 12-2 Big Ten) and Michigan State (22-5, 11-3 Big Ten) both had questionable injury reports prior to the game. Victor Oladipo from Indiana was suffering ankle problems and Travis Trice on MSU had been out with concussion symptoms since their game on January 31. However, both players were cleared to play in tonight’s game.
Former MSU player and current ESPN analyst, Earvin “Magic” Johnson said in his pregame conference, “Both teams are outstanding and love to compete and win. We’ll see a dogfight tonight,” and that we did. In the first five minutes of play, both teams came out strong, making a large board at 11-10 with Indiana leading by 1. Indiana continued to shine, while the Spartans seemed to struggle with their defenses, allowing a total of 36 points in the half. Turnovers were also a major problem for Michigan State in the first half, with a total of 8 team turnovers.
After all of the Spartan’s troubles, they trailed Indiana 30-36 at the half. MSU head coach Tom Izzo stated, “if we can be within 10 at half time we have a chance, when we were 6, we were kind of ecstatic,” which at the time gave power to an energy lacking Spartan team.
In the first half, Adreian Payne led the scoring overall with 10 total points, a 3-3 field goal ratio, and was 2 for 2 on free throws. Indiana’s Oladipo followed Payne with 9 total points, going 3 for 4 in shooting and also ending the half with a 2-2 free throw record.
Michigan State seemed to come back much stronger in the second half, though not enough. With 13:46 left to play, Gary Harris hit one of his famous 3-pointers, bringing the deficit to only 1 behind Indiana at 47-48. Within the next minute, Branden Dawson continued the Spartan mojo and put Michigan State into the lead with a layup. These two important baskets by the Spartans began the final strides in the big fight between the two teams, in which the score was no farther than 6 points for the rest of the game.
After much fluctuation in the score and 10 lead changes, the Spartans were up 67-63 with only 1:37 left. This last minute was one of the most suspenseful yet. The Spartans were down by 3 at 3.7 seconds, and Gary Harris was given the opportunity to bring the game into overtime as he stepped up to the free throw line with a roaring, hopeful crowd. Unfortunately for MSU, Harris only sank 1 of the 3 shots and was unable to get the important rebound. Finally, with a Michigan State foul in the last 3 seconds, the game was put out of reach for hopeful Spartans. Thanks to the final 9-1 Indiana run in the last 2 minutes, Michigan State was not able to defend their home court.
“We didn’t play with the same energy and that was disappointing,” said Izzo coming off two wins in the last week, one knock-out against rival school Michigan. After beating the Wolverines 75-52, MSU was amped with continuing their undefeated home streak, extending into the Nebraska game a few days later. Tonight’s devastating loss for the Spartans marks MSU’s first home loss this season, now 15-1 in East Lansing. As well as interrupting the undefeated home Spartans, the Hoosiers also put an end to their 17 game losing streak at the Breslin.
In the end, the big battle to top the Big10 came down to the basics: free throws and turnovers. Michigan State struggled heavily with both in the first half, but improved in the two areas in the second. Michigan State ended with 12 team turnovers, but only 4 in the second, which is half of those they had in the first. Still, MSU finished the game with a 69.6% free throw percentage, not high enough to pull past the reigning chart topper. Gary Harris and Adreian Payne had a combined total of 36 points, making up more than half of the total points from all the Spartans. Disappointingly, junior team captain and MSU’s leading scorer, Keith Appling, only had a total of 6 points and was in the game longer than anybody.
The Spartans will continue their fight for the top spot in both the Big10 and the 1st seeded spot next month. Michigan State will face a tough schedule as they finish off the regular season. Next, they will head to Columbus and Ann Arbor to take on both Ohio State and Michigan on the road. They will then finish up with Wisconsin and Northwestern at home. However, the hardest part for the Spartans may not be the games at all, it may be rooting for their rival Wolverines in hopes that they will take down the still No. 1 Indiana on Sunday, March 10th.
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