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Blackmon paces Indiana to 82-75 victory over Michigan State

Notes from a much-needed win in Assembly Hall yesterday.

NCAA Basketball: Michigan State at Indiana Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Indiana raced out to a 20-point lead yesterday against Michigan State in Bloomington, and while the Spartans came back to make it close late in the game, they could never quite get past the Hoosiers, who made enough clutch baskets and free throws late to put the game away. Here are a few notes on yesterday’s game:

James Blackmon is putting this team on his back.

The buzzer-beater at Penn State must have motivated him, because JBJ scored 33 points yesterday. At the beginning of the game, he especially looked unstoppable, with half his points coming in the game before the 10-minute mark in the first half. Overall, he went 6-for-10 from behind the arc. We wrote earlier this week about how this is JBJ’s team now. He certainly proved so last night.

Zach McRoberts stepped up when he needed to

McRoberts, a walk-on from Carmel, has already seen significant minutes off the bench this season. Announcers have repeatedly stressed how much Tom Crean likes his play and trusts him. Yesterday, McRoberts had the best game of his season so far. With OG Anunoby now out for the season and Juwan Morgan still recovering from injury, IU was very slim at the forward position. But McBob was very active all throughout his 32 minutes in the game, and his offensive rating was a whopping 251. When he was on the floor, IU was scoring at a great clip, and he provided the glue necessary to make the Hoosier offense hum.

The defense is yet again cause for concern

Indiana’s defensive ranking on Kenpom fell to 115th after this one. During the second half, Michigan State was using simple ball screens to get by the Hoosiers. Without Morgan and Anunoby, Indiana’s defense - which already has struggled this season - is not the same. The Hoosiers scored enough points last night to overcome the defensive woes, but like in 2015, the defense is not trending in the right direction as the season rolls on.

Indiana is back to treading water again in a conference. Now the road gets tougher.

The Hoosiers have three straight wins, and sit tied for 5th in the conference at 4-3. But 3 of their next 4 games are on the road. They’ll face Michigan in Ann Arbor on Thursday, then head to Welsh-Ryan Arena to face a Northwestern team that may actually make the NCAA Tournament for the first time this year. And after a home game against Penn State, the Hoosiers travel to the house of horrors that is the Kohl Center. In short, it doesn’t get any easier from here, and this next stretch of four should determine how far IU goes this year.