Williams traveled and MSU’s coach Tom Izzo came out to high five his senior forward for his tough defense.
That was just the start as Michigan State used a strong, energetic defensive performance to spark a 70-50 win against Indiana.
”We are sick and tired of losing – sick and tired of losing,” junior Matt Costello said. “We are trying to make a little run here. We are a good team. People don’t realize that.”
It was a win built on a couple of throwback, trademark Izzo-coached staples: Rebounding and defense.
”I put it on the board today that energy and effort were going to be the two things that would win this game,” Izzo said. “I know how Tom’s kids play. I know what we stood for.
”I saw (former Spartan) Antonio Smith at the end of the game and that’s the first thing he said to me, ‘Coach, it looked more like us.’”
MSU won big on the glass with a 50-28 rebounding advantage, including 17 offensive boards, after what Izzo described as MSU getting “its butt kicked” in a double overtime loss to Maryland.
The Spartans held the Hoosiers to just 28.3 percent shooting for the game, lowering its season average to 36.8 percent – lower than the best season-long figure in Izzo’s tenure.
”The last time I remember it in the Big Ten was when Michigan was here two years ago,” Costello said. “We just went nuts and beat them by like 30.”
The Spartans did not go nuts to the same extent Monday, but they put their two losses in the past three games behind them – including the downer in double overtime in their Big Ten opener against Maryland.
”I did question their heart a little bit,” Izzo said. “I just felt like we were finding ways to lose games instead of finding ways to win games.”
After a slow start against the Terrapins, the Spartans had anything but against the Hoosiers.
While Indiana had just one field goal in the first 7:14, the Spartans broke out to a 13-2 lead. A few highlight dunks later, including a highlight slam by Gavin Schilling and a pair of big dunks from Dawson, the Spartans rolled to a 30-13 lead and were off to the races.
“I think that’s the best we’ve been,” Izzo said. “I thought that was our best defensive game.”
Dawson had a huge game for MSU in his second game back with a cast on his left wrist. He had 14 points and 13 rebounds and Izzo described his play as “phenomenal.”
His presence was felt in a big way on the defensive end as well, as he held Williams scoreless.
“B.J. shows up and locks down what’s-his-face, gives him zero points, one rebound and one turnover – just destroys him,” Costello said.
Senior Travis Trice came of the bench as freshman Tum Tum Nairn got the start as Izzo looked to shake up the lineup in a move to provide more scoring off the bench and more balanced lineups.
Nairn responded with a career-high seven points, while Trice came off the bench to have six points, seven assists and five rebounds despite being one of the members of the team battling an illness.
Izzo said the move was not a permanent decision, but Trice said it didn’t bother him as he was just concerned with winning. That is exactly what the Spartans managed to do Monday night as they got back in the win column.
”That weight off our shoulders, especially going 1-1 and not starting 0-2,” Trice said. “Anytime you start 0-2 it’s bad. We are excited about the win and just want to get rolling now.”
Now, it is an opportunity to build on the win as they continue to figure it out following a needed win to give the Spartans “a little mojo,” as Costello said.
”We are young and we are figuring it out,” he said. “We are going to scare some people.”