Written by Josh Price
After the first four minutes were played on Wednesday night, the minds of every person inside the Breslin Center could be read. Each one said, â€œOh no, here we go again.â€ The Spartans started off with Maurice Ager missing his first three three-pointers, while Indianaâ€™s Robert Vaden hit two quick shots from behind the arc to put the Hoosiers up six. Paul Davis also acquired two early fouls, and it looked like the team was headed for 0-3 in the Big Ten.
Itâ€™s a good thing it only took the Spartans four minutes to realize the situation.
In the remaining 36 minutes, Michigan State played strong, defeating Indiana 87-73. Led by their two formerly slumping, seniors Maurice Ager and Paul Davis, the team started to rally back in the first half.. Prior to the game, coach Tom Izzo challenged his leaders to step up their game.
â€œIt was a challenge that youâ€™re better than this. Youâ€™re both better than this,â€ said Izzo after the game.
After poor performances against Illinois and Wisconsin, Ager found his shot again. He looked confident with his release and was taking jumpers off of screens instead of forcing up shots. Ager finished with a game high of 28 points, which included 4-of-7 shooting from behind the arc.
A major difference in the game was the Spartans commitment to feeding the ball into the post. Davis returned to the paint after his two game hiatus, and racked up 23 points and 10 rebounds. His inside presence aided the flow of the offense, and gave Michigan State some second chance opportunities.
The Spartan offense as a whole was much more aggressive against the Hoosiers.
â€œI thought we moved the ball more. We passed the ball better,â€ said Izzo.
â€œI thought we got the ball to Paul in the block a little bit more. I thought Mo and Shannon and Drew did a little better job moving the ball.â€
The constant motion of the Michigan State offense was evident. Players were making the extra pass to get a more open look and the presence down low allowed for more freedom for the perimeter. Most of all, the team played with an urgency to perform well, which was not seen in their Big Ten-play this season.
The Spartans also returned to their bread and butter: pushing the fast break up the court. The MSU guards pushed the ball, which kept the visiting Hoosiers on their heels and tired them throughout the night. Strong defense in the second half also led to more fast break points, which included an alley-oop to Maurice Ager with18:27 left in the game. The strong defense also led to only one rebound during the game from Indiana big man Marco Killingsworth.
While Michigan State did receive big games from two of their main guys, balance scoring from the rest of the team helped make this game a convincing win. Matt Trannon, who also started in this game, contributed 11 points. Marquise Gray looked strong with eight points, five rebounds and a block in just 16 minutes of play. The lack of production form junior guard Shannon Brown, who scored eight points on just 10 shot attempts, was surprising. His first points of the second half didnâ€™t come until there was only 1:57 left in the game. Overall, the Spartans shot like the team weâ€™ve come to know and love, finishing the close to 60-percent from the field.
Wednesday nightâ€™s game is a perfect example of the present trend in the Big Ten. Indiana head coach Mike Davis commented after the game about how it has grown increasingly difficult to get a conference win on the road. The mind-set of many coaches is to take care of the games at home, and any road wins are a bonus. The Spartans did their job and increase their record to 3-and-2 against top 10 teams this season.