Indiana gave Michigan State all the Spartans wanted for the first 40 minutes, and had shots to win the game at the end of both regulation and overtime, but in the end, an MSU team that desperately needed a win defended its homecourt against IU for the 16th consecutive time spanning 21 seasons. This certainly ranks with the 2008-09 loss to Michigan and last season's home and road losses to Illinois as the most heartbreaking Big Ten losses of the Crean era. Certainly, IU had no right to expect to win the game, but a six point lead with 2 minutes remaining, wherever and however and against whomever it is accumulated, is a gut-wrenching thing to lose. The abject devastation on the faces of IU's players and coaches after the game was tough to see, and hopefully they will use it constructively in the two winnable home games, against Minnesota and Iowa, that the Hoosiers will play this week.
IU continued to excel at the offensive end. The Hoosiers made 49 percent of their shots overall and 52 percent (11-21) from behind the arc. The Spartans struggled shooting the ball, shooting 42 percent overall (although a decent 34 percent from deep) and were not quite up to their average in rebounding on either end of the court, but the Spartans attempted 7 more field goals than IU and were +6 on made free throws, and -3 on turnovers (IU's 13 wasn't horrible). It's difficult to look for statistical trends in such an even game. IU did some things better than MSU, MSU did other things better than IU, and the game came down to a handful of plays at the end.
I'm sure Jeremiah Rivers will come under some heat for missing a couple of free throws late in regulation, but he's been so much better from the line this year that it is hard to complain. Rivers continues to excel at the defensive end. After all of that, however, the key play of the game, which hasn't been mentioned as much, was Draymond Green's offensive rebound of Kalin Lucas's missed jumper with 7 seconds left in regulation. IU had its hands on the ball, but MSU forced overtime doing what it does best. I wish Hulls had gotten a better look at the end of regulation or OT, or that officials were willing to make calls that would be automatic in the first 39:50 of the game, but ultimately, MSU was in trouble but never let us finish them off.
Individual performances of note:
Jordan Hulls didn't light it up from the field (5-11 from two, 1-5 from three) but he was much more aggressive and I believe this will pay off. Either on his own or at the urging of the coaching staff, he has reached the correct conclusion that he needs to take control of the team on offense.
Christian Watford scored 21 points on 15 shots despite shooting 1-7 from inside the arc. He was 4-8 from deep and 7-10 from the line. It will be nice when we can get some more inside help for him.
- Both freshmen played well: Sheehey scored 9 points on 46 shooting, and Oladipo had 11 points on 5-5, thanks in part to a beautiful alley-oop dunk on a pass from Daniel Moore.
- Jeremiah Rivers scored 10 points on 3-7 from the field and hit a wide open three pointer, his first deep ball as a Hoosier. It was so wide open that I would have been fine if he missed it. May as well plant the seed for MSU and future opponents that he can make it if no one even tries to defend it.
- Matt Roth is returning a bit to his form of 2008-09. He scored 12 points on 4-5 from behind the arc, which were his only attempts.
Derek Elston's playing time continues to dwindle. He committed three fouls in only 10 minutes of play.
As I mentioned last night, this might be the toughest loss of all. I wasn't an IU fan until I enrolled at IU in 1992, so I literally have never seen, during my time as a fan, an IU win in East Lansing. The home loss to Michigan in 2008-09 and both losses to Illinois last year rate high on the gutwrenching scale, but winning at Breslin, even against a struggling MSU team, would have been a great accomplishment for a squad that isn't NCAA Tournament bound, and I wish they could have made just another play or two and held on.
Now, IU faces two winnable games, home games against Minnesota and Iowa. IU played well in a three point loss at the Barn, and the Gophers now are without Al Nolen, but their inside presence still scares me. Iowa is a team that IU should beat on paper, but that was the case two weeks ago as well, and look what happened. Any postseason hopes require a 2-0 record; any retention of momentum requires at least 1-1. I hope the team can use its disappointment constructively.