WHAT LOOKED GOOD: If it was a simple comparison to Saturday's Northwestern game, a lot looked good. But then again, it had to. Saturday, IU couldn't hit a shot in a disappointing 54-47 loss to Northwestern, a game in which the Hoosiers shot 25 percent from the field. IU missed a lot of good looks again Tuesday but the fire and intensity was there on several fronts. Yogi Ferrell didn't score much in the first half but made up for it with good defense and solid leadership skills. In the second half he scored 14 of his game-high 19 points and hit a couple of 3-pointers. Noah Vonleh, who hadn't had a double-double in Big Ten play until the Northwestern game, made it two in a row with 13 points and 13 rebounds against the Spartans. Troy Williams had some of his better basketball of late with nine points and a couple of hard drives to the basket. Jeremy Hollowell, who hadn't played in three games, came off the bench to score eight points and contribute. Indiana did a nice job at the free throw line and actually made 12-of-13 in the second half but the one miss was the front end of a 1-and-1 by Vonleh with 7 minutes to play and the Hoosiers trailing 54-50. Indiana played tough on the road, led by one at the break and by as many as five with less than 12 minutes to play. IU also deployed a 2-3 zone that seemed to give Michigan State a lot of problems and had the Spartans frequently going deep into the shot clock. Lucky for Michigan State several times it got bailed out on shots at or near the shot clock buzzer. Tom Crean isn't a big moral victory guy but he had to be happy with the fight in a difficult place to play. Especially since one of his grittiest players, senior forward Will Sheehey, missed the game with an ankle injury.
WHAT NEEDS TO IMPROVE:Turnovers were a problem again for the Hoosiers but at least they were consistent. IU had 18 turnovers, collecting nine in each half. Many were of the unforced variety, coming off of lazy passes on the wing. The fact that Michigan State turned it over 14 times as well helped as the Spartans one had a one point advantage on points off of turnovers. You would still like to get more second half production out of Vonleh. He had nine in the first half and four in the second half. Yes, he was fouled several times in the second half but he also had a couple of shots rejected in deep including a late one that resulted in a jump ball. IU had a lot of chances at the rim but couldn't convert inside. Stanford Robinson was just 4-of-10 from the field and many were close misses. Troy Williams and Devin Davis had misses inside. Indiana simply needs to do a better job finishing around the basket.
CREAN SHAKES UP THE STARTING LINEUP:With Sheehey injured and Crean not happy with Evan Gordon's shot selection against Northwestern, the IU coach went with a different – and young – look Tuesday against Michigan State. IU started three freshmen (Williams, Robinson and Vonleh), a true sophomore (Ferrell) and a redshirt sophomore (Austin Etherington). The starting five combined to score 53 of IU's 66 points and pull down 26 of 33 rebounds. The starters shot just under 50 percent from the field, hitting 18-of-40 shots.
INJURY UPDATE:Sheehey was our IU player to watch before the game partly because we wanted to see how he would respond after Saturday's ankle injury against Northwestern suffered late in the game. His left ankle sprain resulted in a trip to the locker room Saturday but he came back to play at the end of the game. Tuesday, however, after not practicing either Monday or Tuesday, Sheehey was held out against Michigan State. Sheehey will be day-to-day leading up to Sunday's home game against Illinois. <
INDIVIDUAL OBSERVATIONS: Here's a look at my own thoughts on a few Indiana players from Tuesday's loss to Michigan State:
1. YOGI FERRELL: Yogi still didn't shoot it well again as his mid-season slump continues. In the last three games he is 16-of-51 including his 4-of-13 effort from the field Tuesday. He hit two 3-pointers. What he did well was drive and penetrate and get to the foul line. There he converted 9-of-10 free throw attempts. He three assists, three turnovers, one steal and just one rebound in 36 minutes. He did play good defense though something that ESPN analyst Dan Dakich brought up on several occasions.
2. TROY WILLIAMS: I've been as hard on Williams as anyone because sometimes I don't understand where his minutes are coming from. He takes ill-advised shots, makes mistakes because he's in a hurry and doesn't contribute enough in my opinion to warrant the number of minutes he receives. Tuesday night though he did some good things. He also did some bad things. Why a player like Williams who hasn't scored in double figures in a game since Dec. 10 and had a total of two points in two games last week would taunt an opposing player after a drive to the basket and foul is beyond me. The taunt resulted in a technical foul and an up close and personal moment with Crean. But it just doesn't make sense for someone who is contributing as little as Williams has been to date. Now, like I said, I'll give him his due in this game. His nine points was his most in nearly six weeks. He also had six rebounds. Perhaps his most important statistic was zero turnovers. Although at some level you could make the argument that his technical foul was just like a turnover except Keith Appling only converted one of the two free throws. Williams did appear to have more energy Tuesday night and that could be big moving forward. He needs to put a couple of good games together in a row.
NEXT UP: Indiana (12-7, 2-4 Big Ten) returns home to Assembly Hall on Sunday to face Illinois in a 3 p.m. game on the Big Ten Network. IU dropped an 83-80 decision to the Illini in Champaign on New Year's Eve to start Big Ten play.
Follow Terry Hutchens at Twitter.com/Foxsportshutch