Upon Further Review: Michigan State

Indiana out-rebounded Michigan State by six and out-scored Tom Izzo's team by 20 at the free throw line, but ultimately fell to the 11th-ranked Spartans 72-58. Hoosier Nation looks back at IU's loss and talks about what we found to be most impressive, surprising and concerning about the contest. We also name our game MVP…

Game MVP - Verdell Jones. After the game, IU Coach Tom Crean said the Hoosiers' offensive game plan involved handoffs, hard drives to the basket, and hitting the boards hard, and Jones proved extremely effective in executing that strategy while scoring 20 points. He did the majority of his damage at the free-throw line, attacking the basket well enough to earn six trips to the free-throw line and making 11 of his 12 attempts. For the second straight season Jones is separating himself down the stretch as the clear-cut go-to player for Tom Crean's team. He's scored in double figures in eight straight games and 14 of 15 overall.

Biggest Surprise… Indiana's 30-24 edge on the glass. Michigan State entered the game ranked No. 2 nationally with a +9.5 rebounding margin, while Indiana ranked ninth in the Big Ten and 221st nationally at -0.9. But Indiana more than held its own, pulling down 17 offensive rebounds and owning a 21-14 edge in second-chance points. The Hoosiers did this despite starting a three-guard line-up that didn't come close to matching up size-wise with the Spartan starting five that included 6'8" Raymar Morgan, 6'9", 230-pound Delvon Roe and 6'9", 280-pound Derrick Nix. Indiana's effort on the glass provided further proof that success on the boards is often times more about effort, approach and desire compared to height and weight. Crean's team had all of those things when it came to its rebounding performance, and the result was an effort that helped give his team a chance to stay in the game with a Big Ten title contender.

What I Found Most Impressive… Indiana's 25-of-28 effort at the free throw line. The Hoosiers struggled terribly from the field, making only 7-of-24 in the first half (29.2%) and 15-of-43 for the game (34.9%), but they managed to stay in the game for nearly 35 minutes thanks to their ability to make more trips to the line than Michigan State (28 free throw attempts compared to 10 for MSU) and by converting those opportunities when they got there. Indiana entered the game shooting a Big Ten-worst 67.4 percent from the free-throw line, but things were much better on Tuesday due in large part to the players who were getting to the line. Twenty of IU's 28 attempts came from Christian Watford (6-of-8) and Jones (11-of-12), who are two of the team's better free throw shooters.

What I Found Most Concerning… Off the court, there's a developing sense of unease among some IU fans who appear to have found the turnaround coming a bit too slowly for their liking. That's troubling, considering the situation that Crean inherited. Not only did he inherit a program that was about to get hit hard by probation and a dismal APR, but it was also a team that lost every meaningful contributor from the previous roster. On top of that, Crean and his staff had to find enough players in the spring of 2008 to field a team last season. For those who follow recruiting closely, they know it's hard enough to find one meaningful contributor in the spring, let alone an entire roster. That, in turn, has created its own issues – IU doesn't have the flexibility that it might like in recruiting because those scholarships are taken by the big numbers IU signed in the first two classes. Patience is still very much needed as IU continues along the rebuilding process.

Turning Point: With Kalin Lucas, Durrell Summers, Draymond Green and Chris Allen all seated on the bench for the final 2 ½ minutes of the first half with two fouls, the Spartan reserves managed to outscore IU 4-0 to close the half to open a 40-30 halftime lead. Mike Kebler, Austin Thornton, Garrick Sherman, Korie Lucious and Delvon Roe were the five Spartans on the floor to close the half – Roe is the only starter among the group, while Lucious is the only other significant contributor. It appeared like a golden opportunity for IU to cut into the lead, but it didn't happen. IU would get no closer than 10 for the entire second half.

Quotable:
"They're missing a player or two. I saw [Maurice] Creek at the end of the game and I asked him how he could do that to my buddy by getting hurt. He laughed and I kind of laughed. His team's going to be better as they go because they've got some good pieces." - Michigan State Coach Tom Izzo

"I've always been kind of an Indiana fan. When I came into the league and Bobby Knight was here, like a lot of guys, I idolized what he did and what he accomplished and the way he did it. I've gone through a couple of things since I've been lasting the longest in this league and I've watched at Michigan, I've watched at Minnesota, and now I'm watching at Indiana. When there are major catastrophic issues, whether it be academic or problems or whatever they are, it really decimates a program and it doesn't just bounce back like that. I mean if you looked at this team and added Creek to it, that's a big difference." – Izzo

"The last home game here, we were lacking pride and effort. That was something we really wanted to come out and give today." – Verdell Jones

"We came to fight today. I was proud of our team." – Jones

"A loss is a loss. You feel bad either way. But we can take some things away from this game – free throws, rebounding. But some things didn't go down for us so we'll have to execute better next game." – Jordan Hulls


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