Erratic Michigan State falls short at Indiana

Matt Charboneau
The Detroit News
Joshua Langford (1) of the Michigan State Spartans and Zach McRoberts (15) of the Indiana Hoosiers battle for a loose ball in the first half Saturday at Assembly Hall.

Bloomington, Ind. — Staying focused and playing a full 40 minutes. That was the emphasis for Michigan State during the week as it prepared to face Indiana on Saturday.

By early evening at Assembly Hall, the Spartans were no closer to accomplishing either after an 82-75 loss to Indiana, the second straight defeat for Michigan State and the first in the last six games against the Hoosiers.

“It’s always the same thing,” senior guard Eron Harris said. “We’ve got to play 40 minutes. That’s just it. We have to fix that and within our team we’re gonna fix that. Everybody has got to do what they’ve got do but it’s deeper than that. It’s every single person. We didn’t start the game well enough to win.

“It was more effort-related than anything, I believe. It’s smart plays and effort-related plays. I’m not saying we’re a perfect team but we’re trying to get better. We’re gonna fix these things.”

BOX SCORE: Indiana 82, Michigan State 75

On Saturday, it was another sloppy defensive effort early, much like the one last weekend in the loss at Ohio State.

This time it was Indiana that took advantage as Hoosiers guard James Blackmon Jr. torched the Spartans (12-8, 4-3 Big Ten). He made his first seven shots, including his first four 3-pointers to help the Hoosiers build a lead that reached 17 in the first half and eventually grew to 20 early in the second.

“I thought Indiana played as hard and tough and as good as any team that has faced us in the first half in a lot of years,” Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said. “I thought they bullied us a little bit. We didn’t respond. They hit a couple easy 3s because we didn’t guard anybody on dribble penetration and once we started guarding they hit a couple of tough 3s and that’s what happens when you get hot.

“I was so disappointed in our effort defensively in the first half but I was so impressed with Indiana on the other side of it. They just dribble-drove us, bullied us, posted us. They did a good job. It was boys against men.”

Blackmon finished with a career-high 33 points for Indiana (14-6, 4-3) on 11-for-16 shooting, including 6-for-10 from 3-point range. Robert Johnson added 17 points for the Hoosiers while Thomas Bryant scored 11 and had six rebounds.

The Hoosiers were without forwards OG Anunoby and Juwan Morgan because of injuries, but it didn’t make much of a difference the way they shot the ball.

“Just really all of us had the mindset of we have to step up because losing OG, he’s such a great player,” Blackmon said. “He brings so much to our team. So I think it was just not one person, it was everybody on the team changing their mindset.”

Harris scored 21 for the Spartans while Miles Bridges added 13 and 10 rebounds but was just 4-for-17 shooting, including 2-for-7 from 3-point range. Nick Ward scored 15 points and had six rebounds.

Michigan State made a comeback attempt in the second half that ultimately fell short. Indiana took its biggest lead at 59-39 early in the second half on a drive from Johnson, but Michigan State answered with a 10-0 run, capped by a Joshua Langford 3-pointer to cut the deficit to 59-49 with 11:13 to play.

Michigan State continued to chip away and trimmed the Indiana lead to 69-65 on a dish from Cassius Winston to Kenny Goins for a dunk with five minutes to play. But the Hoosiers answered with a runner off the glass by Devonte Green and after a Bridges missed 3-pointer, Blackmon split a pair of free throws to extend the Indiana lead to 72-65 with 3:45 to play.

It went back and forth over the next few minutes and when Harris’ 3-pointer bounced in and out with Indiana up by six and a little more than a minute to play, the comeback had fallen short.

“The second half we competed a little better,” Izzo said. “We cut it to four and then we didn’t make winning plays so I gotta do a better job of that. All in all very disappointed in most of it, proud of them they didn’t quit and came back. We got beat by a good team, a good team that played well and when you make a lot of shots a lot of good things happen.” @mattcharboneau