Hoosier MVP…Robert Vaden got Indiana off to a quick 6-0 start with a pair of 3-pointers in the game's opening minute, and finished with 20 points, five rebounds, four assists and only two turnovers in 39 minutes. The consensus among many observers was Vaden was going to need to have a huge game offensively for Indiana to come away with a win in East Lansing, and Vaden came up just short in that endeavor. That said, Vaden played a very good all-around game, knocking down 4-of-6 3-pointers as well. While Marco Killingsworth scored a game-high 27 points, he also committed five early turnovers that kept IU from opening an even bigger lead, and he pulled down only one rebound and was pretty much equaled by Paul Davis' 23-point, 10-rebound effort.
League's Best in Transition?…Indiana has talked about wanting to push the pace this season and it's done so by averaging better than 80 points per game, but it was Michigan State that looked like the league's best up-tempo team Wednesday. MSU Coach Tom Izzo certainly made a point of trying to attack early in the shot clock after averaging just 56.5 points in road losses to Wisconsin and Illinois, and they were able to get plenty of good looks early in their possessions before IU could get its defense set up. Give a lot of credit to sophomore point guard Drew Neitzel, who finished with a team-high seven assists and worked the ball up the floor in a hurry.
For all those who were ready to write off Michigan State after its 0-2 start, if it goes into Columbus this weekend and gets a win over the Buckeyes – a very real possibility – the Spartans could very well once again be the league favorite despite its two early setbacks.
Predictable…but productive - In the wake of Indiana's 14-point loss to the Spartans, some have pointed to the predictability of IU's offense as a weakness. IU Coach Mike Davis makes no bones about it – he wants to work the ball inside to Marco Killingsworth on just about every possession, and then let him either work for his shot if matched up one-on-one, or kick the ball back out if the double team comes. While everyone might know what's coming, few have figured out a way to stop it. Killingsworth finished with 27 points on 13-of-22 shooting, and handful of his misses were quality attempts from point blank range. Indiana scored 73 points, shot 55 percent from the floor and committed only 12 turnovers. The offense wasn't what cost the Hoosiers in their trip to East Lansing.
What I Found Most Concerning… Indiana just doesn't seem to be able to get A.J. Ratliff going. The sophomore played 26 minutes Wednesday and had only three missed shots, two rebounds and one block to show for his effort. While some of the sophomore's recent struggles could be excused due to the return from the thumb injury, he's now been back for 1 ½ months and has yet to scratch the surface of what he's capable of doing or contributing. Ratliff struggled to get offensive opportunities against the Spartans, and he also had his share of troubles keeping Maurice Ager from getting clean looks coming off screens and in transition as well. He has the athleticism and tools to be a lockdown defender, but hasn't shown it yet this year. For the Hoosiers to overcome D.J. White's absence and contend for a conference championship, it has to get consistent - and occasionally explosive – contributions from Ratliff.
What I Found Most Surprising… The quantity of quality shots Michigan State got against the Indiana defense. While one could argue IU's top two defenders were on the bench, Indiana still should have managed to put up more resistance on the defensive end than it did. Michigan State got easy baskets in transition, wide open looks out of its halfcourt sets, and was also able to get a couple of layups when the 35-second shot clock wound down. Take away Michigan State's 31.3 percent 3-point shooting on the night, and the Spartans were 25-of-35 (73.3 percent) on its attempts inside the 3-point arc. It's a scary thought to think Indiana shot 54.7 percent from the floor, 43.8 percent from behind the 3-point arc and committed only 12 turnovers, yet still lost by 14. That speaks volumes about how efficient Michigan State was offensively, and how inefficient Indiana was on the defensive end.
What I Found Most Impressive…Indiana didn't give in to the temptation to get steamrolled early. The stage was set for a big Michigan State win, considering the absence of White and Monroe from the IU lineup, and the Spartans' return home from back-to-back road setbacks. But early on, Indiana did what it needed to do to give itself a chance. Vaden was aggressive early, putting the Hoosiers on top with a couple of 3s as IU opened a 17-10 first half lead. Indiana played the Spartans to a standstill in the opening half, putting itself in a position to win the game in the second half. That didn't materialize in the game's final 20 minutes, but it's hard to find fault with IU's performance in the early going.
Marco Killingsworth on the play of Paul Davis, who scored 23 points just days after being limited to two points in a loss to Wisconsin: "He's a good player. Anyone that has one basket (in one game) is going to try to prove the next game that they're good."
Marco Killingsworth on the absence of D.J White from the lineup, and how that impacts the Hoosiers: "We miss DJ all around. Offense and defense."
Mike Davis on the fact Marco Killingsworth had only one rebound: "We asked him to score a lot of us tonight. We asked him to block out and we wanted our guards to rebound the basketball. They are a great rebounding team. We have to get better."
Mike Davis on Michigan State pulling away with its late run: "We struggled because they played at a different pace…I thought we fought hard in the first half to have a chance. It was a six-point game coming down the stretch, and they just kept coming, kept coming, kept coming."
Mike Davis on the atmosphere of the game: "When they make a run…I think they were up six, and the crowd was going wild and crazy, and some of our guys thought we were down 20. I called timeout and said, ‘guys, we're only down six.'"
Mike Davis on how his team keeps from getting down about the loss: "It's a road game. I'm quite sure no win picked us to win this game. What I wanted to do was come out and play hard and give ourselves a chance, and I thought we did that in the first half…we came out in the second half and traded baskets, and you can't do that with a good team."
Mike Davis on where Ben Allen is right now: "Well, Ben is a freshman. How many freshman are going to come out and play at a high level? We have enough guys that we can play Vaden (at the 4), and Ben and (Sean) Kline can come in and give Marco some rest. That's how I plan to play (Ben). To put him out there on an island – I'm not going to do it. He's going to be a very good basketball player before he's done."
Random Thoughts…After the game, Killingsworth didn't believe his confrontation with MSU center Paul Davis was much of a big deal. Killingsworth was called for a foul after grabbing Davis' jersey as the Spartan center attempted to go up for a rebound. Davis came at Killingsworth, and officials stepped in to separate the two big men. MSU quickly responded with a 10-0 run afterwards to turn a six-point game into a 16-point margin…Indiana probably would have liked to play Errek Suhr a bit more than it did, but when the 5-8 junior entered the game, MSU point guard Drew Neitzel immediately drove him to the basket and scored on a conventional three-point play. Suhr was quickly back on the bench and didn't return again.
Upon Further Review...Michigan State
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