Bloomington, Ind. — For the second straight road game, Michigan State dug itself a huge first-half hole.
Just five minutes in against Indiana on Thursday night, the Hoosiers had a 14-point lead, the building was rocking and the Spartans were in a daze. However, unlike the trip to Purdue a week-and-a-half ago, No. 11 Michigan State showed some fight.
The Spartans put together a late first-half run then eventually took the lead in the second half. But that was it. Perhaps they were out of energy, perhaps it was the wild environment, but as Xavier Tillman’s attempt to tie the score in the final seconds on a lob pass from Cassius Winston rolled off the rim, it was the final dagger.
Indiana added two free throws to earn the 67-63 victory at Assembly Hall, and while the missed shots early in the game, a rash of defensive lapses and critical turnovers down the stretch played a huge role, the last shot not falling was still tough to swallow for the Spartans.
“I think he did a hell of a job,” Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said of Winston’s ability to get to the rim on the final play. “There were two guys coming at him. He got it up and had a wide-open layup. He just missed it. But Xavier played as well as anybody most of the game, except for those two missed layups and a few missed free throws.”
Michigan State (14-5, 6-2 Big Ten) put itself in position to tie the score after forcing a turnover on Indiana’s possession as Malik Hall tipped a post-entry pass and Tillman scooped it up. During a timeout with 9.5 seconds to play Izzo drew up the play to get Winston to the basket.
“We set a screen so we could switch a big on to Cash,” Tillman said. “We got a good switch and (Winston) made a good move. He hesitated and blew by him and my man left me. I had a guard on me (after the switch) and Cash threw a lob at the last second. I probably should have dunked it.”
Tillman said he didn’t think he had time to come down and gather the ball. Instead, in one motion he tried to lightly toss it in the hoop. It didn’t drop, and now the Spartans have now lost three in a row to Indiana and find themselves in a first-place tie with Illinois as they head to Minnesota for a 3 p.m. tip on Sunday.
Michigan State coach Tom Izzo talks about the loss at Indiana, the second straight road setback for the Spartans. The Detroit News
“A lot of emotions in a game like this,” Izzo said. “Totally disgusted and disappointed with the start. I didn’t think we guarded anyone early and I uncharacteristically stayed calm and I tried to get Cassius going, which wasn’t easy.”
Winston scored just four points in the first half but sparked the Spartans in the second half and finished with 17 points, making three straight 3-pointers in one stretch. Aaron Henry added 12 points while Gabe Brown chipped in 10 points. Tillman scored nine and grabbed 10 rebounds.
The Hoosiers (15-4, 5-3), though, made enough plays down the stretch, getting a clutch 3-pointer from Armaan Franklin to tie the score at 60 and then one from Al Durham to give Indiana a 63-60 lead with 1:48 to play.
“I tell my guys every day that Michigan State is a somebody and that people get up for you,” Izzo said.
The Hoosiers certainly did that, building a double-digit lead, going ahead 14-4 on a pair of free throws by Justin Smith and extending that lead to 18-4 two minutes later.
The difference from the Purdue game is that Michigan State did not fold, chipping away thanks to a 14-2 run that cut a 25-10 deficit to 27-24 that included back-to-back 3-pointers from Henry. Indiana pushed the lead back to 34-26, but Michigan State scored the next four only to watch Durham hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer to give the Hoosiers a 37-30 lead at halftime.
After starting the game 1-for-9 shooting, the Spartans closed the first half making 10 of 18 while the Hoosiers cooled off, making 5 of their last 13 after opening the game 11-for-19.
“I give Michigan State a lot of credit,” Indiana coach Archie Miller said. “They took a big punch early. And, as we knew they would, they came right back and sort of steamrolled the back six minutes, seven minutes of the first half.”
The close to the first half helped shift the momentum, however, and the Spartans picked up where they left off to begin the second half. Brown his two straight 3-pointers before Winston started to heat up. He nailed three straight 3-pointers to pull Michigan State within 48-46 with 13:43 to play, then set a solid pick for Malik Hall to cruise in for a dunk to tie the score at 48.
Michigan State's Xavier Tillman, Cassius Winston and Aaron Henry talk about losing to Indiana for the third straight time. The Detroit News
A step-back 3-pointer from Rocket Watts gave Michigan State its first lead, 51-48, with 11:05 to play. After a couple of empty possessions, Indiana tied it with a 3-pointer from Armaan Franklin and went ahead, 53-52, on a layup from Durham with 7:36 to play.
It went back and forth until the game was tied at 60 entering the final two minutes. That’s when Durham buried a 3-pointer from the wing with 1:48 to play and Michigan State answered with a layup from Tillman. Joey Brunk then corralled a blocked shot and scored on a layup before Winston split a pair of free throws to pull Michigan State within 65-63 with 38.3 seconds to play.
The Spartans forced the turnover leading to the final drive by Winston that ended in Tillman’s miss.
“The loss sucks,” Winston said. “Today it was on me, just the way I was playing out there. I wasn't making the right plays on defense, I was giving things up. So I hurt my team today in the first half for sure. They had my back, cut the lead down at the end of the half and came out the second half really strong and played really well. But that beginning was definitely on me.”
Brunk scored 14 to lead Indiana while Trayce Jackson-Davis scored 12 and Durham scored 11.
“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 3. I give our guys credit, though. We found a way to gut it out.”
Izzo announced after the game that sophomore guard Brock Washington has been suspended. The walk-on did not make the trip to Bloomington. There were no details given regarding the reason for the suspension and Izzo did not offer a timetable on how long Washington would be suspended.
Washington has appeared in nine games this season and has scored seven points.