Another IU Upset Bid Comes Up Short

Bloomington – Tuesday night's game didn't go according to script. Eighth-ranked Michigan State was supposed to roll into Assembly Hall and roll over Indiana to lock up the outright Big Ten championship. The 15,000-plus in attendance were expected to have very little to cheer for until...

Bloomington – Tuesday night's game didn't go according to script.

Eighth-ranked Michigan State was supposed to roll into Assembly Hall and roll over Indiana to lock up the outright Big Ten championship. The 15,000-plus in attendance were expected to have very little to cheer for until after the final horn sounded and fifth-year senior Kyle Taber stepped the mike to salute the fans, coaches and teammates in his final Assembly Hall appears.

That's not how it played out.

Playing without leading scorer Devan Dumes for all but three minutes after he re-aggravated an injury early on, Indiana turned a 13-point second half deficit into a one-possession game before Michigan State made just enough plays down the stretch to pull out a 64-59 win.

Michigan State improves to 24-5 overall and 14-3 in the Big Ten while Indiana drops to 6-23 and 1-16 in league play.

The win and MSU's outright Big Ten title wasn't secured until the closing seconds. After a Verdell Jones free throw cut the Spartan lead to 59-57 with 3:31 left, the two teams traded empty possessions until Spartan forward Raymar Morgan came up with the game's biggest play. Following a missed 3-pointer from Durrell Summers, Morgan elevated and delivered a tip dunk to push the lead to four, 61-57, with 27 seconds left.

"We didn't block out and he got around us," IU Coach Tom Crean said. "That was kind of a blur, and that was a tough one. But again, that's our margin of error. We're not going to go in and tip dunk the ball like that."

A pair of Nick Williams free throws with 16 seconds left got IU back within two, but Kalin Lucas capped a 15-point night with two free throws to wrap up the win, the Big Ten title, and the Spartans' first win at Assembly Hall since 2003.

"They are deserving champions," Crean said of the Spartans. "They go on the road and get everyone's best shot."

They certainly got Indiana's best effort, and it came from some surprising sources.

With leading scorer Dumes sitting on the sidelines and second-leading scorer Tom Pritchard rendered ineffective by the Spartans big front line, the Hoosiers leaned on others to keep them close. Verdell Jones responded with a 15-point, five-rebound, four-assist performance, while Nick Williams (11), Malik Story (11) and Matt Roth (10) also reached double figures.

Even Brett Finkelmeier chipped in a season-high 17 minutes of solid defensive work, and it was his layup with 8:54 left that started the 14-3 run that got the crowd on its feet and Indiana back into the game.

"They could have packed it in at the 13-point deficit, which could have happened in previous weeks, but they didn't do that," Crean said. That's a sign of maturity."

Indiana had a couple of chances to either tie the game or take the lead in the final three minutes. Trailing by two, Verdell Jones' 3-point attempt with 2:59 left was just a hair long, and then at the 59 second mark Story missed on a driving layup that would have tied the contest at 59.

"That's the toughest loss – when you have it in your hands and you let it slip away," Jones said.

While the loss was the Hoosiers eighth in a row and 19th in their last 20 games, it also represented another step forward in Crean's mind. After suffering a 22-point loss six days ago at home to Northwestern, Indiana has gone down to the final minute with a pair of probable NCAA Tournament teams.

"They're believing they can win," Crean said. "We're starting to play our best basketball because our mind set is so right. We played an excellent team tonight, and we knew we'd have to be close to flawless to compete with them…it was a great game. Our guys were in it until the very end."

That meant a lot to Crean, but it also meant a great deal to Taber as well. The senior finished with three points and a team-high five rebounds in 33 minutes, and he was proud of how his team battled until the final horn in his final home game.

"They kept saying they wanted to win it for me, and they played extremely hard for me, the program and the coaches," Taber said. "Having them do that for me meant a lot."

MICHIGAN STATE 64
Roe 3-4 1-3 7, Suton 2-5 1-2 5, Lucas 4-10 5-6 15, Walton 0-3 3-4 3, Summers 3-7 3-3 10, Morgan 6-6 2-4 14, Allen 3-6 0-0 7, Green 0-0 0-0 0, Lucious 1-2 0-0 3, Gray 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 22-43 15-22 64.

INDIANA 59
Pritchard 0-2 2-4 2, Taber 1-1 1-2 3, Jones 5-12 4-7 15, Williams 4-7 2-3 11, Dumes 1-2 0-0 3, Roth 3-6 2-2 10, Moore 0-0 2-2 2, Finkelmeier 1-1 0-0 2, Story 5-12 1-2 11, Jobe 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 20-43 14-22 59.

3-Pointers: Indiana 5-12 (Roth 2-5, Williams 1-1, Dumes 1-1, Jones 1-4, Story 0-1), Michigan State 5-11 (Lucas 2-3, Summers 1-2, Allen 1-3, Lucious 1-2, Suton 0-1). Rebounds: Indiana 22 (Taber 5, Jones 5), Michigan State 29 (Morgan 7). Assists: Indiana (Jones 4), Michigan State 14 (Lucas 5). Turnovers: Indiana 14, Michigan State 14. Blocks: Indiana 1, Michigan State 4. Steals: Indiana 6, Michigan State 9. Officials: Ted Hillary, Rick Hartzell, Paul Janssen. Attendance: 15,006.


Peegs.com Top Stories