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Three Things: Michigan State 64, Indiana 58

What else was on TV on Tuesday night? Anything fun?

Indiana v Michigan State Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images

The last time IU played a men’s basketball game at the Breslin Center, it was Feb. 2, 2019, and Archie Miller’s team was ambling through its conference schedule in desperate need of a win. Turned out, they found what they were looking for.

On Tuesday, IU returned to East Lansing for the first time since that ever-so-briefly uplifting performance facing a similar set of circumstances — another middling Archie Miller team badly needing a win to stop a skid and pump life into its postseason hopes.

So much for that.

Here are Three Things:

A grab bag of bad basketball

What was the worst thing you watched in this slog of a game? Was it:

  • The 45 combined fouls?
  • IU’s 2-for-20 showing from distance?
  • Indiana scoring .921 points per possession?
  • The fact that Michigan State — somehow! — managed to score more than a point per possession (1.06)?
  • Indiana’s senior starting guard finishing minus-19 and going without a field goal in 22 minutes?
  • Indiana’s senior starting guard air-balling a 3-pointer with IU down by one with 2:28 to play?
  • Aaron Henry going the other way and draining a 3-pointer seconds after the air ball?
  • Indiana’s All-America-caliber big finishing with just one field goal?

There was a lot of bad basketball to go around on Tuesday and Indiana, with losses in four straight and seven of 10, has completely played its way off the bubble. It’s a meandering program with a $10 million problem. Perhaps a loss on Saturday in West Lafayette makes finding a solution to that problem a little more urgent.

Rob Phinisee gave IU good minutes

After Phinisee’s steal and score with six minutes left in the first half gave IU a 20-16 lead, Big Ten Network analyst Robbie Hummel echoed the sentiment shared all across Hoosier soil: “Why can’t this be every game for Rob Phinisee?” Indeed, fall-of-freshman-year Phinisee made a cameo in East Lansing, providing IU with a steadying presence through another rocky outing for the team.

He didn’t shoot well — lol no one did — going just 6-for-16 from the field with six misses from beyond the arc. Otherwise, Phinisee was IU’s most productive player. He scored 16 points, grabbed six boards, dished four assists, grabbed two steals and finished as the only starter with a plus in the plus/minus column. He was a plus-one.

And yet, Phinisee’s strong night also underscored one of the ongoing issues for this team: Indiana just can’t seem to get Phinisee and Al Durham to match impactful performances on the same night. Along those lines, as encouraging as it was to see Phinisee have himself a ballgame, there’s no reason at this point to think it’ll carry over into IU’s regular season finale.

Aaron Henry happened again

Not only did the Indianapolis product pace Michigan State with 22 points, he scored 12 in the final five minutes when the Spartans needed them most. Henry won every individual matchup IU threw at him in the second half, once again proving to be far too much for the Hoosiers down the stretch of a crucial conference contest.

Alas. That’s that. Just two more games to go.