Thursday, December 29, 2011

Michigan State survives Indiana

Think about this for a second: No. 15 Indiana lost to No. 17 Michigan State 80-65 at the Breslin Center on Wednesday night.

Beyond the fact that the game got away from the Hoosiers down the stretch and that it was their first loss of the season, there isn't much about the final that is really noteworthy.

But what if I were to tell you that during a 10 minute stretch that spanned both halves, Indiana outscored Michigan State 25-2? Because that happened. Michigan State opened the game on a 34-16 surge, taking what appeared to be a commanding lead on a Keith Appling three at the 5:11 mark of the first half. Indiana caught fire, however, hitting three consecutive threes to spark the 25-2 run that was capped by a gorgeous, spinning layup from Victor Oladipo in transition with 15:02 left in the game.

That wasn't the end of the Indiana push, either.

The Hoosiers go up by as much as nine, taking a 54-45 lead on a Christian Watford three with 11:14 left. All told, Indiana needed just 14 minutes to go on a 38-11 run that turned a 34-16 deficit into a 54-45 lead.

But that Watford jumper was the last point that Indiana would score for almost six-and-a-half minutes, as Michigan State used a 20-0 run of their own to go ahead 65-54 with just under five minutes left in the game. Indiana never threatened again.

I've honestly never seen a game that had two turns that were that dramatic. Michigan State opened with a 34-16 run, Indiana countered with a 38-11 run and, finally, Sparty closed on a 35-11 surge. The strangest part is that there was no in between. There wasn't really a stretch where the two teams traded baskets for a while. Twice is one game, a massive amount momentum was completely reversed in the span of a just a couple of possessions.

Did I mention that Gus Johnson was on the call for this game?

Ahh. Isn't conference play great?

What We Learned

Michigan State:

- Who was that guy wearing the Derrick Nix jersey? What a terrific showing for the junior big man. He finished with 14 points on 6-9 shooting coming off the bench. Nix scored in the post, he tipped in a couple of misses and, most importantly, he ran the floor like a three-year old thoroughbred with the grace of a newborn foal. Nix was in the same situation as UCLA's Josh Smith two years ago. He was nearly run out of the program, but Nix changed his diet, streamlined his body and is finally starting to live up to the expectations he had coming out of high school.

- Adreian Payne was pretty good in the minutes that he played tonight. The duo did a great job on Cody Zeller.

- That was, without a doubt, the single best basketball game that Keith Appling has ever played. He finished with 25 points on 7-12 shooting with seven assists, six boards and just two turnovers. the sophomore looks like he is really starting to embrace the role of point guard for the Spartans. After handing out just 14 assists in the first seven games this season, Appling has had seven or more assists in four of the past seven games.

- I feel very good about saying Michigan State is the second best team in the Big Ten.


- The final score was a bit misleading in this one. Indiana, for about a quarter of the game, was in complete control. More impressive is that the Hoosiers had this kind of a performance despite getting just eight points and 4-15 shooting combined out of Cody Zeller and Jordy Hulls. And the Hoosiers were still able to hang with, and nearly knock off, Michigan State in the Breslin Center.

- Christian Watford has the ability to be a complete game-changer. While Zeller has been the guy that has gotten most of the attention, its Watford that is Indiana's most dangerous offensive weapon. He finished with 26 points and 10 boards tonight.

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