Even while the No. 3 Michigan State Spartans (17-1, 6-0 Big Ten) fight injury problems, they continue to find ways to crank out victories, and will look to continue those winning ways on Tuesday at home against the Indiana Hoosiers (12-6, 2-3).
Tip-off is scheduled for 7:00 pm ET and will be televised on ESPN.
Tuesday’s game will serve as the second of two regular season meetings between the two schools, with Michigan State winning the last game on Jan. 4 in Bloomington, 73-56, behind a 26 point performance from Gary Harris.
Also, for Michigan State, that game against Indiana was the last time all members of the Spartan roster were healthy and available for play and was also really the only game where that was the case since November.
However, as mentioned before, even as Michigan State battles injuries, they still come into this one on fire, winners of ten straight while Indiana comes into this one as one of the more up-and-down teams in the country. While the Hoosiers did beat the No. 3 Wisconsin Badgers last Tuesday, 75-72, they followed it up with a dud at home against the Northwestern Wildcats, losing 54-47.
“They can be an A team or they can be a D team,” sophomore MSU guard Denzel Valentine said after practice Monday. “As you’ve seen against Wisconsin, they come out ready to play and they beat Wisconsin who was undefeated and then lose to Northwestern. They’re a tough team, you never know what you’re going to get. They have really good athletes, really good players and they’re kind of experienced so you never know so we’re going to have to come out with our A game.”
As for this Tuesday’s match up, for the fourth straight game, Michigan State will likely once again be without the services of star big man Adreian Payne, who continues to nurse a nagging foot sprain.
The fact that Payne will likely be out of the lineup for this one could play a big factor in the outcome of the the game. The last time these two met, although Payne was held in check on the offensive side of the ball, finishing with just 4 points on 2 of 6 shooting, he did a fantastic job of holding Indiana freshman forward Noah Vonleh to just 4 points of his own. And with Vonleh (12.4 ppg, 9.2 ppg) shut down in that last game, Indiana doesn’t have many other options to go to down low. So if Michigan State wants the advantage down low in this one, another Spartan big man will certainly have to step up in Payne’s absence on the defensive side of the ball.
“He’s so far the best (Big Ten big man) I’ve faced,” senior MSU center Matt Costello said of Vonleh, one of the Spartans who will have to step up on Tuesday. “With his body, size and speed, he’s a tough guard.”
As for the guard play, Indiana’s go to scorer is, without a doubt, sophomore Yogi Ferrell. Averaging a team high 17.4 points per game, matching up with him will be another key for the Spartans.
But with a great defensive back court in senior Keith Appling and sophomore Gary Harris, who also just so happen to average a combined 34 points between the two of them, the MSU basketball team should look to have the advantage in that regard.
“It’s tough to beat the same team two times,” Appling said. “And I’m pretty sure they’re kind of fired up about it. No one wants to get beat that bad at home so we’re going to get their best shot and we’re going to have to stay focused for 40 minutes.”