EAST LANSING, Mich. — After dropping two of their last three games, Michigan State, who enters the week No. 9 in the newest AP Poll rankings, looks to get back on the rails when they host Indiana Friday night.
The last time MSU took the court was nearly a week ago, when they lost in a stunning upset to their in-state rival Michigan. Following a 20-point drubbing of Northwestern, first-year coach Archie Miller has his team playing much better ball as of late, with the Hoosiers winners of their last three outings.
Indiana is coming off a game in which they put forth one of its best defensive efforts in a long time, holding a Northwestern team which averages 76 points per game to just 46 points. The 46 points allowed is IU’s third fewest points allowed in a conference game since 2000.
The Hoosiers are led in scoring by their junior forward Juwan Morgan, who’s averaging 17.5 points per game this season after managing just 7.7 per game last year as a sophomore. Morgan ranks ninth in the Big Ten in scoring, sixth in rebounding (8.3), fifth in steals (1.5) and seventh in field goal percentage (61.8%).
“As far as Indiana goes, they’ve won three in a row, they’re playing good ball,” head coach Tom Izzo said. “They’ve got a great, great forward in Juwan Morgan, who’s averaging 16 and 7 or 8.”
Senior guard Robert Johnson has been playing particularly well for the Hoosiers during the win streak, averaging just over 18 points per game during that stretch, including a 28-point outing in Minneapolis two weeks ago. Johnson, fourth all-time at IU with 205 career 3-pointers, had 17 points when the Spartans came to Assembly Hall last January.
If the Spartans are going to avoid dropping a third game in its last four, they’re going to need to play much cleaner basketball than they have in the past couple weeks. In MSU’s three losses this season, they’ve turned the ball over 47 times, including giving it away 18 times to Michigan on Saturday, which resulted in 26 Wolverines points.
“I think our turnovers are because guys aren’t moving, the ball’s not moving,” Izzo said. “It’s dribble, dribble, dribble, and then pick it up and look to pass.”
Izzo will need to get more out of his sophomores Cassius Winston and Nick Ward, both of whom were limited in terms of their production against Michigan, largely in part to foul trouble for both. Indiana’s opponents average 34 rebounds per game, so look for Ward (7.5 RPG) and freshman Jaren Jackson Jr. (6.2 RPG) to be very active around the rim.
Winston, who’s coming off a game in which he went 3-7 for just 11 points against Michigan, had a rough night on the defensive end. Logging 31 minutes, Winston often was put time and time again in ball screens, giving the edge to the Wolverine guards who exposed Winston and were able to finish at the basket at will.
“I like when guys… you know, Cassius doesn’t show a lot of emotion,” Izzo said after Winston quickly left the locker room following the loss to Michigan. “If he showed you despondency – if that’s a word – I say that’s exciting for me because that means it really, really bothered him, it mattered.”
Friday’s game will show just how much that loss bothered Winston and the Spartans when they host Indiana in the 122nd meeting between the two programs. Both teams sit at 4-2 in conference play, both very much alive in the conference race with Purdue and Ohio State sitting atop the Big Ten. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. on FS1 with Gus Johnson and Bill Raftery having the call.