East Lansing, MI (Sports Network) - First place in the Big Ten Conference is
on the line, as the top-ranked Indiana Hoosiers battle the fourth-ranked
Michigan State Spartans at the Breslin Center on Tuesday night.
Since dropping a heart-breaker at Illinois on Feb. 7 (74-72), Indiana has
ripped off three straight wins to improve to 23-3 overall and 11-2 in
conference, with its most recent triumph coming in convincing fashion against
in-state rival Purdue on Saturday, 83-55. The Hoosiers are no strangers to
knocking off top-ranked conference foes on the road, as they recently took
down Ohio State in Columbus, 81-68, on Feb. 10.
Michigan State is 22-4 this season and tied atop the league standings with
Indiana at 11-2 thanks in large part to its hot play of late, as it has won
five in a row and 11 of its last 12. The Spartans went on the road to dismiss
Nebraska on Saturday night, 73-64, and now they return home where they've gone
a perfect 15-0 this season.
These two squads met on Jan. 27 in Bloomington, with Indiana coming away with
a 75-70 win to extend its lead in the all-time series to 67-48. The Hoosiers
have now won back-to-back games against Michigan State after the Spartans had
claimed the previous six matchups.
Indiana had no issue disposing of Purdue over the week, as it shot 55.6
percent from the field while holding the Boilermakers to a mere 37.5 percent.
Will Sheehey was flawless off the bench for IU, shooting 9-of-9 from the field
for a game-high 22 points. Cody Zeller tallied 19 points, nine rebounds and
two blocks, Christian Watford netted 14 points and came up with three steals,
and Jordan Hulls had 11 points and five assists in the triumph. The Hoosiers
have grown accustomed to putting up high point totals, as its 82.9 ppg ranks
second in the nation, and its scoring defense (61.0 ppg) has also been
spectacular. Zeller has established himself as one of the country's top
forwards, as he is netting 16.6 ppg on nearly 60 percent shooting from the
field to go with 8.2 rpg and more than a block and a steal per contest. Victor
Oladipo has also been highly efficient, averaging 13.8 ppg on 63.9 percent
from the floor, while Watford (13.2 ppg) is effective both in the paint (6.8
rpg) and out on the perimeter (45-of-91 from 3-point range). Hulls (10.7 ppg)
and Sheehey (10.2 ppg) round out an offensive attack that can beat teams in
several different ways.
Michigan State suffered a bit of a scare in its recent bout with Nebraska, as
it led by just one midway through the second half, but a 12-2 run put the team
up by double-digits where it would stay en route to the victory. The Spartans
outshot the Cornhuskers from the field (.511 to .355), dominated the
rebounding battle (42-24), and shot 23-of-29 from the foul line. Adrien Payne
(15 points, 14 rebounds, three blocks) and Derrick Nix (13 points, 11
rebounds) both logged double-doubles, while Keith Appling and Gary Harris
netted 16 and 14 points, respectively. The biggest reason for MSU's success
this season has been its outstanding defense, which yields just 59.1 ppg on
38.8 percent field goal efficiency. The club's offensive has been solid as
well (70.0 ppg). Although the Spartans' top scorers spend a lot of time out on
the perimeter, as guards Keith Appling (14.1 ppg) and Gary Harris (12.9 ppg)
have put together impressive campaigns, the real strength comes in the
frontcourt, as Payne (9.5 ppg, 7.0 rpg, 1.2 bpg), Nix (9.5 ppg, 6.5 rpg) and
Branden Dawson (10.6 ppg, 7.0 rpg, 1.1 bpg, 1.8 spg) have all performed well
when called upon.
The Sports Network