(East Lansing) Just when MSU looked like they were ready to get back on the winning track, a tough loss to Michigan showed this team still has a ways to go.
MSU (10-8 overall, 2-4 Big Ten) will have no time to wallow in the 60-58 loss to the Wolverines on Sunday, because No. 16 Indiana (14-4, 4-2) will be invading the Breslin Center on Tuesday night.
MSU head coach Tom Izzo said his team has played well of late, but havent been able to close out a game.
"We have still found ways to lose instead of finding ways to win," Izzo said at his Monday press conference. "I thought looking at the game; we maybe took a few bad shots, when we were up by five. I shouldnt say bad shots, quick shots.
"Again the free throw line has been a little bit of a nemesis for us. And yet if you look at the overall strengths the last couple of games the turnovers have been down to eight and a half a game, offensive rebounds have been up 15 a game, were outrebounding teams by 10, our defensive field goal percentages have been great. So the turnovers that were hurting us earlier, at least weve done a better job with that."
Izzo called the one-day preparation for Indiana one of the toughest his team will face all year, because Indiana plays so many different sets.
He said he and his coaches will do the best the can to come up with a game plan to stop the Hoosiers. Izzo said hes going into this game believing that Indianas freshman guard Bracey Wright, who aggravated a previous back injury, will be in the lineup.
Indiana coach Mike Davis said on Monday that Wright has made some improvements, but will remain a game-time decision.
"This team is a good team without Bracey Wright and with him it becomes a very, very dangerous team because it just brings another guy to stretch the defense," he said. "Bracey Wright is definitely the longest range shooter and he has the most athleticism of those shooters so whether he plays or not, Im assuming hes going to play, but how we prepare and how we design things to stop some of that, it really changes according to whos in the lineup."
Wright, who is leading the team in scoring with 19.1 points per game, has missed the last four games for the Hoosiers.
Izzo said even though Indiana has not shot the ball particularly well over the last few games, he still knows its important to guard their shooters because they can kill you from the outside.
Senior guards Tom Coverdale and Kyle Hornsby come into the game averaging 12.4 points per game and 8.3 points per game, respectively. Both are shooting close to 34 percent from behind the arc and are not afraid to hoist one up if theyre left open.
"The problem with Indiana is theyre a little tougher to defend by committee," Izzo said. "Its hard to get much help because they spread the court with Hornsby and Coverdale and they have so many three-point shooters that they just spread the court and then theyre good enough inside now where I think their inside guys are scoring a little better, but one the reasons they are is that extra shooter."
Izzo described Coverdale as the glue of the team. He plays tough, runs the team and makes plays when he has to.
"Defensively he does some things that just kind of gnaw at you," Izzo said. "Hes always there; hes always got his body on you. I mean hes the kind of kid youd like to coach. Hes done a very good job and I think when hes played well theyve played even better."
Izzo mentioned how well Indianas big men have played lately and forward Jeff Newton has been a big reason why. The 6-foot-9 senior is averaging 14.2 points per game and 9.3 rebounds per game.
He creates defensive mismatches because he shoots pretty well outside the lane and can dribble into the lane and create his own shot, something Izzo said makes him dangerous.
"This guy is a decent shooter, who is phenomenal at putting it on the floor for a 6-8 guy. Hes very quick, very good with the ball and he can get to the rack real good and real easy."
For Indiana, theyll have to a difficult matchup with sophomore guard Chris Hill, who was named Big Ten Player of Week on Monday. Hill has scored 20 points off the bench in games against Penn State and Michigan and averaged 6 rebounds a game.
Izzo said he seems to be playing the most relaxed basketball of the season.
"Im very pleased the way Chris has played not just because hes scored points, but hes not turning the ball over and is penetrating a little bit more," he said. "His defense has picked up, hes rebounding the ball very well and hes played with a little more passion and that has helped him."
Izzo said he intends to use the same starting lineup he has in the last two games with sophomores Tim Bograkos and Kelvin Torbert at the guard position and senior Al Anagoyne, sophomore Alan Anderson and freshman Erazem Lorbek at the forward positions.
He also said he is going to stick with his rotations. He said he had intentions of bringing junior college transfer Rashi Johnson into the Michigan game, but had reservations. The junior is still getting acquainted to the offensive and defensive sets, but will most likely be ready for the Illinois game on Sunday.
The Spartans and the Hoosiers are two of the top teams in the Big Ten in field goal percentage defense. MSU is holding teams to 39.8 percent from the field and Indiana is holding teams to 38.6 percent from the field. So this game promises to a defensive battle.
This is the 98th meeting between the two schools, with Indiana holding a 60-37 edge, but MSU has won nine straight home games against the Hoosiers.
Tip off is set for 7 p.m.