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What To Watch For: Michigan State

Indiana huddles up after a play against Northwestern at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall on January 14, 2018. Indiana defeated Northwestern 66-46 to win its third straight game. (Mackenzie Salmon)

Indiana men’s basketball has played very well recently winning its last three games, but the Hoosiers are now going to face their toughest test of the season. Going on the road to play Michigan State.

While IU is trending upward, Michigan State is struggling losing two of its last three after their only loss came against Duke in their first 16 games of the season.

This will be a major test for the Hoosiers because although the Spartans are playing their worst basketball of the season so far, no road game in the Big Ten is easy, especially at the Breslin Center in East Lansing.

A win for Indiana would put them at 5-2 in the conference and shockingly all alone in third place ahead of Michigan State, Michigan and Maryland to name a few.

Here’s what to watch for Friday night vs the Spartans…

Keep Up the Defensive Intensity

During this recent three game win streak, Indiana has done a lot right, but it all starts on defense. In the last three games IU has held its opponents to 62.3 points per game while forcing 15 turnovers a game.

Last time out the 46 points for Northwestern were the fewest against Indiana all season, but Michigan State will be a much tougher task solely because of their size and length.

The Spartans have three starters 6-foot-7 or taller with Miles Bridges (6’7”), Nick Ward (6’8”) and Jaren Jackson (6’11”). Because IU is without 6-foot-10 forward De’Ron Davis, they are clearly undersized, but IU coach Archie Miller is confident in his team’s ability.

“But I think at the end of the day, it’s all about quickness and it’s all about positioning,” Miller said. “We’re going to have to really cover for one another, try to do our best to eliminate the easy catches and the easy stuff, where they’re just not able to pound us.”

Forcing turnovers is key as Michigan State averages nearly 14 turnovers a game. Therefore, Indiana’s quickness on defense will really have to be prominent in order to win.

Take Advantage of Sparty Sliding

As mentioned before in the beginning of this article, Michigan State has lost two of its last three games and they even struggled in their lone win having to beat Rutgers in overtime at home.

MSU on the season has averaged 85 points per game while shooting around 52-percent from the field and 41-percent from deep. Those numbers have dropped drastically over the last three games.

Sparty is scoring just over 70 points per game during this skid and shooting 42-percent from the field and 33-percent from deep.

Indiana will have to keep up its much-improved shooting defense, as they’ve held opponents to shoot 39-percent from the field and 35-percent from 3-point the last three games, in order to secure the victory.

Attack The Glass

IU has done a fine job rebounding this season, but tonight won’t be a cake walk with the big bodies of Ward, Jackson and Bridges going up against them tonight. Michigan State owns a plus-11.3 rebounding margin per game against their opponents this season.

Since IU is undersized in the frontcourt, this makes guard rebounding so much more vital. Every game, Miller emphasizes guard rebounding and sets marks for the guards to hit.

Against Northwestern, Miller wanted 12 guard-rebounds defensively; they were able to pick up 16 in the game.

“Tweleve or more is always really good. But against Michigan State it’s a little bit different,” Miller said. “Being able to keep them off the glass is very, very difficult, and it’s going to take all five guys to sort of grind it out.”

Stay Out of Foul Trouble

Indiana doesn’t have great depth in the frontcourt, and if Juwan Morgan, Justin Smith and Zach McRoberts all get in foul trouble again early like they did against Northwestern, the game could get out of hand early.

“That’s the thing we’re looking to avoid the most is to really be able to play without fouling,” Miller said. “Because that’s something on the road there that we won’t be able to endure as easy, say like we did against Northwestern being at home.”

IU needs Morgan and the others out on the floor as much as possible, but at the same time the Spartans are very good at drawing fouls. Michigan State has gotten to the line 417 times this season and has a plus-66 advantage over their opponents getting to the stripe.

For as much as the Hoosiers need to stay out of foul trouble, they also need to be the aggressor and force fouls down low when getting into the lane on offense. IU’s quick guards could help out in forcing fouls on the Michigan Sate big men, but they’ll have to be weary because MSU is the best shot blocking team in the country averaging eight a game.

Zain Pyarali

I am a junior from Edwardsville, Illinois majoring in Sports Media. I formerly worked for the Indiana Daily Student for two years serving as the Sports Editor and beat reporters for Men’s Basketball, Men’s Soccer, Baseball and Field Hockey during my time with the student newspaper. Currently I am the Men’s Basketball beat reporter for IU Student Television while I also broadcast games for BTN Student U. Email me: zpyarali@thehoosiernetwork.com and follow me on Twitter: @ZainPyarali

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