Indiana men’s basketball needs a win right now in the worst way. On a current three game losing streak, IU is in the thick of its conference schedule and get another tough opponent Saturday night: No. 5 Michigan State.
The first time these two teams met this season was two weeks ago in East Lansing when the Spartans dominated the Hoosiers from the opening tip and went on to win 85-57.
Since that game, Indiana bounced back at home against Maryland, but has since lost their last three at Illinois, home against Purdue and at Ohio State.
The good thing for the Hoosiers is that they finally had some time to rest after playing five games in 12 days and four games in eight days.
With three days to prepare for Michigan State here’s what to watch for…
Michigan State’s Size Dominance
Indiana is undersized. Everyone knows that. Last game between these two it was so evident that it hurt. Plus when Juwan Morgan went out with an ankle injury right before halftime that didn’t help either.
The last two games, Purdue and Ohio State have bullied Indiana on the low block just because of their size. Purdue went to 7-foot-2 big man Isaac Haas with ease as he scored a career high 26 points and Ohio State outscored Indiana in the paint by 14 on Tuesday.
During the first matchup between Indiana and Michigan State, the Spartans outscored the Hoosiers 38-18 in the paint. And the forward trio of Miles Bridges, Nick Ward and Jaren Jackson Jr. combined for 50 points.
Although Indiana is struggling to contain everyone’s big men, 6-foot-6 senior forward Freddie McSwain Jr. has been efficient on both ends of the floor over the past three games.
Head coach Archie Miller said they’re going need him to give Indiana as many minutes as he can handle going up against Michigan State’s size
“He’s competed as well as anybody inside defensively, he continues to sort of give us activity on the glass and rebound,” Miller said. “He’s quick, he’s battling, he’s going to have to use his quickness, he’s got to do his work early, he’s got to play longer stretches for us where he doesn’t get tired, but he’s battling for us right now.”
— The Hoosier Network (@TheHoosierNet) February 2, 2018
Efficient Scorers Wanted
Every night Indiana gets two quality scoring performances on their roster. Most of the time it’s Robert Johnson and Juwan Morgan, but you shouldn’t bank on these two carrying the load every night.
Morgan scored 24 against Purdue while Johnson put up 21. The next highest scorer for Indiana against Purdue was McSwain with eight points.
Against Ohio State, it was Morgan again being consistent with 15 points, but Johnson was irrelevant finishing with two points. Luckily for Indiana, Devonte Green stepped up against the Buckeyes contributing a team-high 20 points. That still wasn’t nearly enough in the 15 point loss.
If Indiana wants to be successful on offense, they can’t ride just two guys the entire game. They need their depth to contribute.
When looking at Indiana’s individual points per game, Morgan is first, Johnson is second and then De’Ron Davis who hasn’t played in a month because he tore his Achilles is third.
How does a team expect to be successful when its third leading scorer has missed the last eight games and no one has surpassed him yet?
Indiana went 4-5 in the month of January. In games where at least three players scored in double digits they went 3-1. When they only had two players score in double figures, they went 1-4 with the only outlier being the Northwestern win when they held the Wildcats to 46 points.
Based on Green’s past performance at Ohio State, maybe he can be the guy. But even then it’s difficult to tell because he only saw four minutes of playing time against Purdue. Fortunately for Green, Miller liked his attitude going into Ohio State.
“I thought (Devonte) had a humbleness about him. I thought he paid attention. I thought his attention to detail in our walk-throughs and our conversations and scouting was much better,” Miller said. “He showed he played really well. He was under control and he was one of the lone bright spots probably in the game.”
— The Hoosier Network (@TheHoosierNet) February 2, 2018
Spartans Facing Adversity
It’s unfortunate, but we have to be realistic when talking about everything that has gone on inside the Michigan State athletic department in the last week and a half.
Since the trial of former MSU team doctor Larry Nasar, there have been more reports about MSU basketball and football teams mishandling former sexual assault cases.
You can see it on Tom Izzo’s face in games and especially afterwards in press conferences. He’s stressed.
They’ve faced adversity off the court, but even more on the court in the last two games.
Against Maryland, they were down 13 at halftime and found a way to comeback and win. Last game at home against Penn State, the Nittany Lions had them on the ropes up 12 at one point but the Spartans ended up winning by eight.
Through this tough time for the program, the team has gotten down but still found ways to win.
At Assembly Hall on Saturday night, it’s going to be a rowdy environment and that could cause it to be a close game at halftime. If that happens don’t be surprised if Michigan State flips the switch and runs away with it in the second half.
“Hopefully we have an energized building that helps our guys compete,” Miller said. “It’s just going to be one of those nights where you’re going to have a tough hard fought night. For our guys…just get up for one of the best teams in the country.”