Hoosier MVP…Errek Suhr might have come up with the game's biggest play by drawing Paul Davis' fifth foul, but Sunday's Hoosier MVP was undoubtedly Robert Vaden. Vaden once again looked like a first-team All-Big Ten player on Sunday, scoring 21 points on 8-of-13 shooting. He also added a game-high 10 rebounds and five assists while committing only one turnover in 39 minutes. That effort came on the heels of back-to-back games in which Vaden had struggled badly - Vaden was a combined 5-of-20 from the floor, including 2-of-14 from behind the 3-point arc in games at Illinois and at home against Penn State.
Vaden certainly got a confidence boost from hitting his first 3-point attempt of each half, and he played arguably his best all-around game of the Big Ten season. Afterwards Michigan State Coach Tom Izzo referred to Vaden as one of the best players in the Big Ten, and the Hoosiers' 6-5 guard/forward has certainly played like it against the Spartans. In two games against MSU, Vaden averaged 20.5 points, 7.5 rebounds and 4.5 assists, all while shooting 15-of-24 from the field.
Pivotal Stretch…With Michigan State leading 69-67 after the final television timeout, Errek Suhr set a screen under the basket on MSU center Paul Davis, who plowed over the 5'8" IU guard, picking up his fifth foul. With Davis on the sidelines, Indiana took advantage. Suhr knocked down both free throws to tie the game at 69-69. After a missed jumper by MSU guard Drew Neitzel, Marshall Strickland drove the ball to basket and threw up an acrobatic layup under the arm of backup MSU center Delco Rowley, who fouled Strickland on the play. After a Strickland free throw extended the lead to three, Neitzel again went on the offensive, driving the ball into the lane against a couple of IU defenders. Neitzel was looking for contact – and a foul – when his running layup went up and over the backboard to give the ball back to IU. Vaden drilled a 3-pointer at the other end, and Michigan State would get no closer than four the rest of the way.
What I Found Most Concerning… Where has this team been? There was no rhyme or reason to why Indiana would suddenly look like the team that climbed into the nation's top 10 a month and a half ago, but on Sunday against the Spartans Indiana looked like a team good that was good enough to not only earn an NCAA tournament invitation, but one that was capable to being a factor at the Big Ten postseason tournament next weekend.
After the game, IU Coach Mike Davis and the players felt like they were mentally back to where the were at the start of the season, which explained the sudden turnaround. A better gauge of that, though, will come Wednesday when the Hoosiers travel to West Lafayette to play the Boilermakers.
What I Found Most Surprising… Errek Suhr played 19 minutes after playing only one minute in the first encounter with the Spartans. In the game in East Lansing, as soon as Suhr entered the game Michigan State cleared out and allowed point guard Drew Neitzel to go one-on-one with the 5'8" Suhr. Neitzel scored on the play while also drawing a foul, and Indiana Coach Mike Davis didn't put Suhr in for the remainder of the game.
This time around, though, Michigan State didn't appear to try to exploit the size mismatch, and as a result Suhr played a huge role in Indiana's win. Not only did Suhr draw the offensive foul on Paul Davis and come up with a big steal in the game's final minute, but he also hit a big 3-pointer midway through the second half that extended IU's lead to nine. Suhr had thrown up air balls on his first two 3-point attempts, but when he found himself open in the corner he didn't hesitate and knocked down his third attempt.
It's apparent that IU Coach Mike Davis has decided that no matter what the matchup, Suhr needs to be on the floor. He's now played double-digit minutes in seven of IU's last ten games, and he played the final 6:17 of Sunday's matchup with the Spartans. His presence on the floor creates better ball movement for the Hoosiers, and his ability to knock down free throws is another reason Davis likes him on the floor late in games.
What I Found Most Impressive…Indiana's ability to withstand Michigan State's rally, yet still regroup and get a much needed win. Indiana opened a 16-point lead early in the second half, only to see that lead disappear by midway through the period. Maurice Ager scored 15 points during a nine-minute, second-half span and appeared ready to carry the Spartans to a come-from-behind win on Senior Day in Bloomington.
Considering everything the team has been through in recent weeks, the Hoosiers had every reason to throw in the proverbial towel late, but that didn't happen. Marco Killingsworth scored six straight points – including 4-of-4 at the free-throw line – during a late second half stretch where the teams were exchanging the lead. Then, once Davis left the game with his fifth foul, Indiana capitalized and didn't look back.
"I didn't know they had the lead – I was just playing. They're Michigan State. Everyone knows they are good and they are going to make their run. We weathered their storm." – Marco Killingsworth.
"It feels good. We want to take this and run with it. Being the last game, you dream about having everyone there, your family seeing you win, and you beat Michigan State, and they are big time. It doesn't get any better." – Marco Killingsworth.
"I thought we played the way today we did early in the season. Our attitude is getting back to where it needs to be." – IU Coach Mike Davis.
"I'm almost positive that I won't be back (at IU next year). Coach Davis is the main reason I came here. Hopefully, he can get a job, and if he goes somewhere that's good enough for me, then I'll be there with him." – Robert Vaden.
Upon Further Review…Michigan State
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