Indiana loses fifth straight

The Hoosiers (14-8; Big Ten: 4-5) fell below .500 in the Big Ten after suffering a loss to Michigan State last night. The Spartans snapped Indiana's ten game home winning streak.

After losing four straight games on the road, Indiana figured to get back on track against a Michigan State squad missing one of their best players in Alan Anderson. Yet, recently during Indiana's losing streak, opposing players have been exploding for career nights.

Paul Davis was that man on Wednesday night. Davis scored 21 points on 7-for-9 shooting. Davis only played 23 minutes, but he played most of the second half. With George Leach on the bench with a broken nose, Indiana did not have an answer for Davis. Coach Mike Davis assigned A.J. Moye to guard Davis, but Moye was much too small to bother the 6'11 freshman.

Davis displayed the skills which led many scouts last year to consider him one of the top five high school players in the country. He hit jumpers, penetrated off the dribble, and banged inside. Indiana could not find an answer for Davis. Coach Davis never put Jeff Newton on Davis, which could have made a big difference in stopping the talented freshman.

Newton played well, leading Indiana with 24 points and 5 rebounds. He helped send the game into overtime, operating in the post much more in the second half. Indiana needs him to continue to be aggressive down low even if he is more comfortable on the perimeter.

Bracey Wright added 20 points, returning to old form for the first time since his back injury. Wright sent the game into overtime with a 3-pointer from the corner. He played with the energy he displayed to start the season by clogging up passing lanes, penetrating and moving well without the ball.

With Indiana trailing 65-62 and less than 20 seconds left in overtime, Coach Davis wanted to get a quick bucket from Wright and then immediately foul again, leaving the Hoosiers with enough time to take another shot. The strategy backfired after Wright made a crucial turnover dribbling the ball of his foot and out of bounds. After Wright committed the turnover, the Spartans sealed the game with a couple of free throws, dropping Indiana to under .500 in the Big Ten.

While Newton and Wright produced for Indiana, they did not get much help. They took 31 of Indiana's 51 shots as no other Indiana player stepped up. Newton and Wright accounted for 12 of Indiana's 16 free throw attempts because they were the only Indiana players attacking.

Indiana never took control of the game. Michigan State maintained a small lead for most of the second half. The Hoosiers made a few runs, but those runs were negated when the Hoosiers allowed Michigan State to score on second opportunities off of offensive rebounds. Indiana's defensive pressure would pick up during these runs, and the crowd would get louder. When picking up their defensive intensity, the Hoosiers stopped the Spartans several times, but then allowed Michigan State to score easy buckets on offensive rebounds.

Indiana only scored 2 points in the paint in the first half. That fact sums up Indiana's troubles. Teams cannot win unless they have some balance to their offense. The Hoosiers clearly lack balance, leading to defenses bearing down on their perimeter shooters.

The Hoosiers are flirting with not making the NCAA Tournament. They will have to win at least one road game and win all of their remaining home games if they want a chance of going to the tournament. Even at .500 Indiana could easily miss the tournament if the committee does not invite 6 Big Ten teams. With the Big Ten struggling this year compared to conferences like the Big 12 and SEC, Indiana will likely need to be 9-7 in the Big Ten to make the tournament, meaning they must win 5 of their final 7 games.

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