The Hall was rocking on Thursday night, and for the first time in what seems like a long time, it appears that the home team might be on to something here.
Behind a boisterous crowd at the nearly full Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall, Indiana jumped on Michigan State early and found a way to hang on and pull out a 67-63 win over the No. 9/11 Spartans.
Is the aura and mystique of IU’s home floor back after five losses there last season?
The win over Michigan State marks the fifth-straight win over a ranked team at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall for Indiana. And for the first time since 2013, IU has a three game winning streak against MSU.
Now, the Hoosiers will be looking to do it all over again against another ranked opponent on Sunday.
Winners of four of five in Big Ten play, Indiana (15-4, 5-3) will host No. 17 Maryland at 1 p.m. ET in Bloomington on Sunday.
You really cannot say enough about the energy inside the building on Thursday night — and it was the first thing that IU head coach Archie Miller spoke about after the game.
“Our fans right now, when we play a home game, man, it’s second to none,” Miller said. “And it’s a great feeling because in this league it just seems like every single night it’s almost impossible to find a way to pull through. But when you’re at home it’s very important.”
The home crowd helped to fuel a fast start for Indiana.
IU opened the game on a 6-0 run in the first 2:09 and scored on each of its first three possessions. Indiana went into the first media timeout at the 15:12 mark in the half with junior forward Justin Smith shooting two free throws and a 12-4 lead.
Indiana went on a 10-0 run to take an 18-4 lead at the 12:35 point in the first half on a senior guard Devonte Green layup. The Hoosiers took their largest lead of the game at 15 (25-10) on a freshman forward Trayce Jackson-Davis free throw with 9:07 remaining in the half.
The players also credited the fans for their ability to run out to an early lead.
“We have great fans here at Indiana, and they were out early today, and they were rocking from the jump,” redshirt junior Joey Brunk said after the game. “And we love playing, love playing in front of them. And this is a great place to play basketball.”
But despite the fast start and the great energy in the building, the Spartans gathered themselves. A quick 14-2 run by MSU had Michigan State right back in it.
“I give Michigan State a lot of credit,” Miller said. “They took a big punch early. And, as we knew they would, they came right back and sort of steam rolled the back six minutes, seven minutes of the first half.”
Where Indiana seems different this year however is their ability to absorb a blow and punch back — and that’s exactly what IU did on Thursday night. The Hoosiers eventually fell behind 51-48 before closing out the game with a 19-12 advantage in the game’s final 12 minutes.
“I give our guys credit,” Miller said. “We found a way to gut it out. We were able to make enough plays.
“We have good camaraderie as a team. We have good leadership right now. And we have some poise that in tough spots we can come back and hang in there. Obviously we’re not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but I think our team believes if we do what we need to do and play hard and compete we can beat anybody.”
During the run to open the game, Indiana was able to get the ball into the paint both in transition and the half court. The Hoosiers seemed to be a step faster than MSU as they found holes and moved the ball.
As they game evolved and the Spartans gathered themselves, their defense stiffened and made IU earn every point via long possessions.
“We got really stagnant and standing around, Miller said. “We didn’t move the ball and we didn’t cut or screen enough off the ball, and that bogged us down.”
But to Indiana’s credit, they remained patient and didn’t force three-pointers. Instead, they worked the shot clock and probed for opportunities at the rim.
“We didn’t jack shots,” Miller said. “And I thought when guys did put the ball down, they were aggressive at least getting to the basket, and we had hopefully some assist-type plays and passes that were good.”
What IU faced over the last 30 minutes of the game was typical Big Ten basketball against a high level defensive team.
Sometimes you have to take ugly and gritty over beauty. Michigan State knew that Indiana wanted to play inside-out, and the Spartans simply made IU find points another way.
“The late shot clock stuff kind of happens in this league,” Miller said. “Teams just don’t let you score the first time. I think early in the game when we were cooking pretty good, we were in transition a lot. When we were in the half court, they’re either going under or they’re baiting you, not baiting you, but they’re throwing all their marbles at keeping it out of the post.”
Indiana’s offense only turned the ball over eight times, maximizing possessions on the night. The last time the Hoosiers had under 10 turnovers was in the win against Princeton (nine) on Nov. 20, 2019.
The Hoosiers shot 45.6 percent overall, and 33.3 percent (4 of 12) from long range. IU dominated the paint with a 34-18 advantage down low, and Indiana had 10 offensive rebounds that generated 11 second chance points.
Early in the game and then down the stretch, Indiana’s defense was making life difficult for All-American point guard Cassius Winston.
In the game’s first eight minutes and the final twelve combined, IU held the Spartans to just 18 points as the Hoosiers played some of their best defense of the season.
In between, things got a little dicey.
“In the second half, our defense just wasn’t as tough,” Miller said. “We had a harder time on the ball screens. We didn’t impact the ball as much. And when the ball gets zipped around with a team like that, they really stretched us from three.”
Of course Winston was a major part of the defensive focus, and for the most part IU was able to hold him in check. Winston was held under his season averages for both points and assists.
“Cassius Winston, having the ball in his hands we really tried to make an impact on them because when he gets downhill inside the key it’s really hard to stop,” freshman forward Trayce Jackson-Davis said. “So just trying to limit his going downhill is what we were really trying to do and help him stop making plays and going downhill, basically.”
It was Jackson-Davis that was able to help secure the win by switching onto Winston and running him off the three-point line with IU up by two points in the final minute.
“But the last play of the game, even Trayce, asking Trayce to switch a ball screen on Cassius Winston just so we didn’t give up a pop 3, did a great job of just making him put the ball on the floor, so he didn’t raise up on him and shoot a three.” Miller said. “He just made him get inside the 3-point line, which is what we asked him to do. And then deflected ball or whatever it may have been.”
Michigan State came into the game as one of the top offensive rebounding team in the country, but IU was able to take that part of their game away too.
“They only had five second shots and maybe part of it was their getting back. I don’t know,” Miller said. “This team has to rebound. With our size and to be successful how we have to play who we have, rebounding is essential.”
The defense forced 13 Michigan State turnovers. The 13 MSU turnovers led to 17 points for Indiana.
OTHER GAME COVERAGE
- Final box score and specialty stats
- Archie Miller and IU players post-game
- Tom Izzo post-game comments
(players with meaningful minutes)
- Joey Brunk* (A) Brunk is raising the level of this entire team by setting a standard with his effort. He led the Hoosiers in both points and rebounds, but it is his ability to always seem to be making plays while also doing all of the dirty work that is really giving IU a boost.
- Justin Smith* (B) Not a high profile game statistically, but Smith’s defense is underappreciated and he has found an ability to play with better sustained energy this year — even when shots aren’t falling.
- Trayce Jackson-Davis* (B+) A really tough physical game for a true freshman, but Jackson-Davis held his own. He also had the game saving block guarding Winston. He will have to continue to find ways to finish in the paint against big and strong teams like MSU.
- Al Durham* (A-) Durham made big shots at the end of each half, played turnover free, and helped will IU to a win. “I thought Al Durham made some really big plays,” Miller said.
- Rob Phinisee (B) Phinisee did most of the hard work covering Winston and he also did a nice job facilitating the offense. The sophomore point guard is making too many unforced errors right now.
- Devonte Green (C-) Green is simply in a slump right now, and he is letting his inability to knock down shots impact the rest of his game. IU will need to rely on a big night from him at some point in this Big Ten grind.
- Jerome Hunter (B) Miller had him in the game late to guard against threes and make free throws, and that’s exactly what he did as Hunter put the game out of reach at 67-63 in the final second.
- Armaan Franklin (B+) Franklin got a lot of Green’s minutes and once again played very well for a true freshman. When MSU took their 51-48 lead, it was Franklin that responded with a three to tie it back up. He was strong on the defensive end as well.
- Race Thompson (A) Thompson was back to his early season stat stuffing form impacting the game in a variety of ways. Miller called it his best game of his career. And then a hard fall ended Thompson’s night. Miller referred to the injury as back stiffness that should not be serious.
- De’Ron Davis (B) For the last couple games Davis has seemed to find an ability to make a positive impact in brief minutes and he did that once again on Thursday night.
Note: 2021 in-state recruiting target Trey Kaufman was at the game.
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