Indiana returns to the road on Tuesday night when it takes on Michigan State at the Breslin Center. The Spartans are 16-10 overall and 8-7 in Big Ten play.
Tuesday’s game is set for a 9 PM ET tip on ESPN:
It will be an emotional scene when Indiana and Michigan State tip off at the Breslin Center on Tuesday night. It will be the first game for the Spartans at the Breslin Center since last week’s tragic campus shooting that killed three Michigan State students and injured five.
At Saturday’s Michigan-Michigan State game in Ann Arbor, Michigan wore special warmups and honorary t-shirts, observed a moment of silence before the game, hung a ‘Spartan Strong’ banner in Maize Rage, lit the Crisler Center green and white in the moment of silence and had the UM Pep Band play MSU’s alma mater.
After Saturday’s IU win over Illinois, Trayce Jackson-Davis talked about the tragedy and the upcoming trip to East Lansing.
“Yeah, first of all, just thoughts and prayers for them. I think I speak for our whole team on that,” Jackson-Davis said. “I love Coach Izzo and that place is going to rock. They’re going to play with a lot of emotion, a lot of heart. We have to be ready. But sometimes it’s bigger than basketball.
“Obviously we’ve just got to go and it’s business but at the same time it is what it is and we’re going to play hard and they’re going to play hard and if we get one get one but we’ve got to go on them.”
THE FIRST MEETING
Indiana beat Michigan State 82-69 on Jan. 22 at Assembly Hall in a victory that was the Hoosiers’ third in a five-game winning streak.
Sophomore Tamar Bates was a difference maker off the bench, scoring 17 points and connecting on five of her six 3-point attempts. Unfortunately for Bates, that game was an aberration as he has scored a total of 22 points in the eight games since the Spartans win.
But it wasn’t just Bates who shined against the Spartans. Trey Galloway went 3-for-3 from distance and had 13 points. Malik Reneau came off the bench and finished with six points and five rebounds.
And of course Trayce Jackson-Davis was dominant. This year’s national team candidate finished with 31 points, 15 rebounds, five blocked shots and four assists in 39 minutes.
Both teams struggled to defend with no offense as Michigan State went to the line 28 times and Indiana attempted 24 free throws.
The Spartans did a good job of guarding inside the 3-point line, holding Indiana to just 42.5 percent on 2s. However, Indiana was able to get comfortable from the perimeter, hitting nine of its 15 attempts from distance in the 13-point victory.
Michigan State was without Malik Hall in the loss, and Tyson Walker was also battling an illness that led to the tip, according to Tom Izzo’s postgame comments.
All statistics are for conference only and are updated through Sunday’s games.
Michigan State has a top 30 defense nationally, according to KenPom, and has the best effective field goal percentage defense in the Big Ten in conference play.
However, defending without scrambling is a big problem for this Michigan State team. The Spartans rank last in the conference in opponent free throw rate (FTA/FGA) at 32.5 percent. And Michigan State doesn’t do a good job of being wrong either. The Spartans are 13th in penalty kick rate with 21.7 percent.
In Big Ten play, Michigan State opponents take an average of 5.9 more free throws per game. And the Spartans are being outscored by an average of 3.7 points per game at the line.
Michigan State is also a mediocre offensive rebounding team, ranking 227th nationally in offensive rebounding percentage per KenPom. Part of that is by design as the Spartans are an excellent defensive team this season in transition.
The strength of the Michigan State defense forces opponents into tough jumps. Spartan opponents are shooting just 29.2 percent on threes this season, the 15th-lowest percentage in the country. Michigan State will try to force the ball out of Jackson-Davis’ hands, which will put pressure on guys like Jalen Hood-Schifino, Trey Galloway and Miller Kopp to convert from the perimeter.
WHAT IT COMES DOWN TO
The KenPom projection has Michigan State by one with a 44 percent chance of a Hoosier win. The Sagarin rankings like Michigan State by one as well.
While Indiana sits alone in third place in the Big Ten standings, a tough schedule will likely require a 3-1 record the rest of the season or help from other teams to secure a double bye in the Big Ten Tournament.
The best chance, obviously, for a road win this week is the game in East Lansing. But winning at the Breslin Center is always a tall order, and Tuesday’s game, as Jackson-Davis said Saturday, is bigger than basketball.
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