BLOOMINGTON, Ind. – We've seen this movie before. Many times, actually. Fall behind by double-digits early, scrape your way back and find a way to win.
Except something strange happened on Saturday at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall. This time the roles were reversed. It was Indiana, the notoriously slow-starting Hoosiers, who had built the big lead. And it was Michigan State that played the villain, exploding for 52 second-half points to knock off Indiana, 78-71.
"I look at the second half as a complete bust on defense, giving up 52 after only giving up 26 in the first half,'' a disgusted Archie Miller said afterward.
"As the game went along, there were just too many errors. I knew today was going to be hard, but I was disappointed with our defense in the second half. We gave up 52 points in the second half, and it's a hard one to take.''
It sure is, because it spoiled a career day for Indiana sophomore Trayce Jackson-Davis, who exploded for 34 points and nine rebounds on Saturday, his best day as a Hoosier. He made 11-of-18 field goal attempts, and drew 13 fouls. He was 12-for-16 from the free throw line, the second-most makes of career topped only by the third game of his freshman year, when he made 14-of-15 free throws against North Alabama.
Indiana dominated inside throughout the game, with Jackson-Davis and Race Thompson both having huge games. Thompson had 15 points and a career-high seven steals.
The pair helped Indiana jump out to a 19-6 lead early, something they seen in reverse in the last month against Iowa, Northwestern and Ohio State. The Hoosiers came back to beat the Hawkeyes and Wildcats, and then the Spartans turned the tables and did the same thing to Indiana on Saturday.
Michigan State made its first run late in the first half, eventually tying the game at 26-26 with 2:52 to go in the half. The Hoosiers led 30-26 at the break.
Indiana also got off to another good start in the second half, pulling ahead quickly by nine. But then Aaron Henry, the former Ben Davis star from Indianapolis, went wild. Henry, who finished with 27 points, had 16 in the second half, and Joshua Langford had 12 of his 14 points in the second half, as well. Gabe Brown also hit three three-pointers in the second period.
All that scoring erased Indiana 50-44 lead with 11:48 to go. They outscored Indiana 20-6 to grab an eight-point lead and never looked back. The lead got as high as 12 and Indiana got no closer than four with 38 seconds to go, but couldn't convert on their last two possessions.
"Aaron Henry is a tough matchup, and we didn't have a real good matchup for him,'' Miller said. "He jumped over us, spread us on ball screens and we weren't there. They also got 12 offensive rebounds, too, which is what they do.''
Too many miscues hurt Indiana as well in the second half. They have seven turnovers and didn't get any production outside of Jackson-Davis, Thomas and Armaan Franklin, who had 13 points.
The rest of Indiana's lineup scored a total of nine points (five by Jerome Hunter and four by Al Durham) on a combined 2-for-19 shooting.
"We had seven turnovers in the second half, and they were all tough,'' Miller said. The second part of the second half was bad on both ends. We just didn't play well.
"We needed more on the perimeter in today's game. They play a big role for us, but today wasn't their day. They'll work hard and come back for the next one. We got 49 points from two guys inside.''
Jackson-Davis was sensational all day, and it's a shame there wasn't a win to show for it.
"Trayce got 34 today and was able to draw 13 personal fouls. They really didn't have an answer for him, so we played inside-out,'' Miller said. "And when the ball did come out, we missed some open ones. We shot 4-for-19 from three, and Armaan made three of those and Al made one very early, but that was it. There wasn't much perimeter shooting at all.''
Indiana is now 12-10 overall and 7-8 in the Big Ten, losing at home as a favorite for the fourth time this season. The Hoosiers have four games left, starting with a road trip to Rutgers on Wednesday. They also will play Michigan at home, will make up a game at Michigan State on March 2 and finish the regular season at Purdue on March 6.
Michigan State had lost three straight games to Indiana and had been embarrassed in their last two starts this season, a 30-point loss at home to Iowa and an uninspired 10-point loss at Purdue on Tuesday night.
So this one was huge. Henry had family at the game, Langford had a great second half at the Spartans had a much-needed win. They are now 11-9 and 5-9 in the league.
"We kept grinding. We kept working on it," Izzo said. "Langford set the tempo in helping be as connected as we could be (on offense0. I don’t think we win the game at all without all then little things Josh Langford did.”
Jackson-Davis blamed the loss on the Hoosiers's defensive breakdowns.
"Down the stretch, Aaron Henry just really took over the game for them,'' Jackson-Davis said. "He put them on his back and he was making tough shot after tough shot. Our defense just didn't hold up and they were getting easy baskets at the rim.''
"We were having to rush back out to cover the threes and that really hurt us. Gabe Brown hit a bunch of them and Joshua Langford hit a few, too. That really kills you, especially when you have a lead and you're up nine and you're supposed to be putting them away.;''