Indiana at Michigan State – The Report Card

It seemed like the only positive thing that Gus Johnson and Jimmy Jackson could come up with for Indiana on this night was that they kept fighting.  And that is no small thing.  We’ve seen Indiana teams quit in these circumstances.  Ultimately, no amount of fight was going to overcome this talent gap — a talent gap that widened dramatically when junior forward Juwan Morgan left in the first half with an injury.  This one was never really in doubt.  Michigan State wins it easily, 85-57.

Overall:  C  The Juwan Morgan injury shouldn’t be used as an excuse here.  The script for this one was written when Morgan was still playing.  The Hoosiers were largely ineffective on both ends when Morgan was still in the game.  Indiana was just simply overwhelmed in multiple facets of the game.  Indiana was overmatched on the defensive end and unable to hit shots on the offensive end.  The bottom line here — Michigan State was just simply a much, much better team.  It is difficult to imagine how Rutgers took them to overtime in East Lansing last week, but that’s a problem for another day.  February 5th to be precise.

Coaching:  B-  Poor Archie.  He finally gets this team trending in the right direction and they run into a Spartan buzzsaw and lose their best player to injury in the process.  There wasn’t anything tactical that Miller was going to do here to meaningfully impact the outcome.  As we had suggested earlier in the week, the only way IU was going to compete in this game was if it knocked down shots.  Unfortunately that just has not been this team’s M.O. this year, and there really isn’t much Archie can do to change that.

Offense:  C  Beyond an impressive effort from Robert Johnson, Indiana really struggled to get anything going.  They shot 34% from the field and 31% from distance.  The Hoosiers only had nine assists and 8 offensive rebounds — two things that had been on an uptrend in recent weeks.  It’s strange to lose by 28 and only commit 9 turnovers.  Much of that is likely due to the fact that Michigan State seemed content to pack in their defense and force IU to beat them from the perimeter.  And who could blame them based on the way the Hoosiers have shot the ball this year.

Defense:  C+  Despite the 85 points, it really didn’t feel like it was a lack of effort.  Sure the Hoosiers struggled to get back in transition at times, but they were reasonably effective in the half court.  Much of the transition struggle was due to bad misses on the offensive end resulting in Spartan runs.  Moreover, Michigan State was just bigger and stronger.  Bigger – outscoring IU 38-18 in the paint.  Stronger – outrebounding IU 45-27.  Oh, and the Spartans can knock down the perimeter shots when given the opportunity, going 10 for 20 from distance on the night.

Players with meaningful minutes:

  • Al Durham, Jr.:  C+  He got a couple buckets late in the game including an impressive finish at the rim.  But when the game was still within reach he struggled with ill-advised drives and a turnover.
  • Josh Newkirk:  B-   Yes, he took a lot of shots:  5 of 17 from the field including 4 of 12 from distance.  But he wasn’t necessarily forcing the ball.  With the defense focused on Johnson and Morgan out of the game, it often felt like Newkirk had to look for offense.  There really weren’t any other options.  He had 3 of the teams 9 assists, and 2 turnovers.
  • Justin Smith:  B-  Smith looks like a guy that is going to make a Juwan Morgan-like leap in improvement going into next year.  He has all of the skills, they just need to be refined.  Most notable is his need to get stronger finishing around the basket.  He is making a name for himself for missed dunks.  It was good to see him get extended minutes against a high caliber opponent.  There is no better way to improve.
  • Robert Johnson:  A-  Johnson was the only reason that Indiana was within 50 in this one.  The game was still reasonably close (8) when Johnson had to be sent to the bench with two fouls after he was called for an offensive foul on a blatant flop.  For the second game in a row he looked extremely confident shooting the ball.  That alone is refreshing to see after struggling for more than a year.  Indiana will need him even more if Morgan misses time.  7 of 13 from the field, 4 of 6 from distance, and he was once again active on the glass, with 7 rebounds.
  • Devonte Green:  C+  A really quiet 10 minutes as the Green/Durham pendulum swings back to Durham.  The only thing noteworthy about Green’s night was his continuing struggle shooting the ball.  He is now shooting 33% overall and 27% from distance on the season.
  • Juwan Morgan:  C+  Let’s face it, this wasn’t looking like a great night for Morgan before he was injured.  We shouldn’t doubt him, because he’s shown the ability to take over, but Michigan State’s length was bothering him and he didn’t look confident with his shot, including a free throw that went off the backboard.  The normally efficient Morgan was 1 for 5 from the field.  At this point we just have to hope the injury is minor and move on.
  • Zach McRoberts:  C+  From walk-on to guarding an NBA lottery pick.  Somebody had to take the thankless job of guarding Bridges.  He had a couple moments with a steal and a block, but we’re sure Zach is ready to move on from this one.  After all his great work on the boards, it was pretty shocking to see that he had zero rebounds in 24 minutes.
  • Freddie McSwain, Jr.:  B-  One thing is for sure — Freddie gives you what he’s got.  It doesn’t always manifest into a beautiful work of art, but sure enough he’ll come up with rebounds, blocks and dunks.  His free throw stroke looked good too.
  • Collin Hartman:  C  Probably his most ineffective game since he came back from the knee injury.  He just wasn’t able to get anything going, and he’s the one guy that you thought would knock down shots when the team needed it.
  • Clifton Moore:  Guess who was the only guy with a positive +/- on the night?  We wouldn’t put too much into that beyond just right place/right time for his 7 minutes, but it was good for him to get those 7 minutes against a great team in a tough road environment.  He’ll be called upon extensively if Morgan misses time — and with another game looming on Monday, it seems likely that he will.

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Photo credit – Mike Carter, USA Today Sports