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Three Things: Michigan State 78, Indiana 71

At least you can get a free Arby’s sandwich for your troubles

Michigan State v Indiana Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

An Indiana program that is averse to creating any semblance of momentum for itself did what you feared it might do in a winnable game at home.

And after a 78-71 loss to struggling Michigan State, the Hoosiers have put themselves in a tough spot for the stretch run.

Here are Three Things:

What a collapse

There have been more embarrassing losses during the Archie Miller era — Indiana State and Fort Wayne come to mind — and Indiana could fill a tome with the similarly frustrating defeats it has suffered through over the past four years. But you can put Saturday’s Michigan State game on the list with some of the worst of the worst losses, because this one could end up as the most costly one of them all.

Congratulations, IU. You just took your second Quad III home loss of the season, playing your way back toward the wrong side of the bubble. Sure, there are still four games left in the regular season; plenty of time for Indiana to play its way into the NCAA Tournament field for the first time since 2016. But even if the Hoosiers do so, it’s now difficult to envision a scenario where they won’t be sweating their way through Selection Sunday. We’re talking three road games — at Rutgers, Michigan State and Purdue — sandwiched around a home date with Michigan. Good luck with that.

Saturday’s second half made the road ahead all the more treacherous for the Hoosiers, who led by 13 points midway through the first half and held a 10-point advantage five minutes into the second half. But IU was also outscored 64-39 over a 26-minute span in the middle of the contest, and yielded 52 second-half points to a bad offensive team from East Lansing. It was the highest-scoring half for an IU opponent since Duke posted 53 first-half points on the Hoosiers at Cameron Indoor Stadium in 2018. *shivers* Remember, Michigan State is a ~b a d~ offensive team. At least, it has been.

There were a bunch of reasons Indiana fell apart, but we’re going to focus on the defense for a moment, because IU is getting very little return on investment here. Archie Miller has prioritized defense in this program. He’s done so through his recruiting, through his approach to coaching, and virtually every other facet of team building. It’s the one thing he wants Indiana to be known for under his watch.

But this isn’t a good defensive team four years in. It hasn’t been a good defensive team in months. In conference play, only Iowa has been a less efficient team on the defensive end. Consider that Michigan State came into Saturday having produced more than a point per possession only once since Feb. 5. Against the Hoosiers, the Spartans scored 1.18 points per possession. We all know the IU offense has a tendency to disappear, but so does the defensive intensity and wherewithal of this group.

And it’s killing them.

A good start, then a fizzle

By being intentional about what it wants to do, Indiana has authored some pretty good basketball over the opening segments of the past two games. Wednesday’s start was encouraging, Saturday’s was even better. IU fed the post and saw Trayce Jackson-Davis score 10 points in as many minutes. The Hoosiers willed their way to second-chance looks and seized upon Michigan State’s many errors. By the midway point of the period, IU led by as many as 13 points.

And it should have been more.

IU was the tougher, more physical team early, pushing around a Michigan State program that usually assumes the role of bully. Then, it wasn’t. And that’s a shame, because the Spartans were just begging to get blown out of the building. Michigan State was terrible — just awful — for a good chunk of the first half, committing hilarious rec-league quality turnovers on darn near every other possession early on.

But not only did IU seem to let off the gas a bit, the Hoosiers just couldn’t make shots. Open looks were there in abundance, thanks to Jackson-Davis and Race Thompson providing a presence underneath. Indiana just missed good looks, and it hurt. By halftime, in what should’ve been a more lopsided game, IU held a mere four-point advantage. And we know what happened next.

IU’s guards were not even close to good enough

We touched on this in the preview: it felt like Indiana would have the better backcourt in this matchup, and that’s not something you can always say about the Hoosiers. Ha. Haha.

Guards not named Armaan Franklin combined to go 0-for-14 from the field. Not only could they not make shots, they were guilty of some terrible reads, too.

It’s a guards game and IU doesn’t have good enough guards. But what else is new? Again, it’s just a shame that on a day when Jackson-Davis scored 34 points and Race Thompson had 15 points, seven steals and six rebounds, no one else was able to dig down and help them out.

One more thing: Archie Miller is now 33-40 in Big Ten games.