Indiana Basketball – Hoosiers Come Close in Bounceback Game at Michigan State; Lose 71-66

by Kent Sterling

Gary Harris scored 20 points in the first 18 minutes of the second half, and that was all Michigan State needed to point its way to victory.

Gary Harris scored 20 points in the first 18 minutes of the second half, and that was all Michigan State needed to point its way to victory.

Indiana beats #3 Wisconsin, loses to heralded bottom feeding Northwestern, and then rises up to take the #3 ranked Michigan State Spartans to the wire in East Lansing.

Will the real Hoo-Hoosiers please stand up, please stand up!

The lead for Indiana got as high as five points at 46-41 with a chance to take it to seven, but a Noah Vonleh turnover ended the 10-2 Hoosiers run and led to a Michigan State 11-2 run that Indiana couldn’t overcome.

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Indiana tried to close a late 10-point gap to get to within a single possession, but fell short.

In the end, Indiana just wasn’t poised enough to beat the third-best team in the country on their own court.  Too many turnovers (18) and too few assists (9), although given the Hoosiers poor jump shooting assists are going to be tough to come by.

Vonleh posted a Munster with 13 points and 13 rebounds (for those of you unacquainted with the 1960s sitcom “The Munsters”, they lived at 1313 Mockingbird Lane – any combination of stats that total 13 is a Munster), and Yogi Ferrell scored well with 19 points on 4-13 shooting.

The Spartans were led by the former Mr. Basketball who Indiana fans sure would have enjoyed seeing in an Indiana jersey.  After scoring a career high 26 in the first contest between Indiana and Michigan State at Assembly Hall, Harris dropped 24 tonight with 20 in the second half.

Not sure whether Harris still resents being asked to wait until the late signing period to commit to Indiana (as was reported at the time), or whether he enjoys playing his ass off against former Indiana All-Star teammates and northeast side of Indianapolis rivals like Evan Gordon, Austin Etherington, Jeremy Hollowell, and Yogi Ferrell, but whatever his motivation, Tom Crean would sure appreciate it if he let bygones be bygones.

Indiana now sits at 2-4 in the Big Ten with four tough tests ahead (vs. Illinois, January 26 – @ Nebraska, January 30 – vs. Michigan – February 2, and @ Minnesota – February 8).

Depending upon which Indiana team shows up, they could be 6-4 or 2-8 as they make their way home from the Twin Cities.

This inconsistency makes watching Indiana a psychological challenge.  The cup half full people expect the best, and are disappointed roughly half the time, and the cup half empties feel very smart half the time.

Both types of people felt cheated tonight as Indiana competed well enough to have a chance, but not well enough to get the win.  The pessimists were proven wrong, but the optimists weren’t validated.

For those who think that Crean is overpaid at $3+ million per year, he’s earning it be trying to forge a team out of these oddly ill-fitting pieces.

Crean battled gallantly through the adversity of having no players when he accepted the job at Indiana, but that was no match for the challenge of coaching this group that boasts two players who appear confident in their roles (Vonleh and Ferrell) and others who try to do to much, are comfortable not doing enough, or don’t appear to have any idea what they are supposed to do.

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Whether Indiana finds a path to success this season depends upon the development of players not named after a cartoon bear or the architect and captain of a boat 300 cubits long.

In two months we’ll know if the the trip through these hills and valleys yielded enough wins to earn a spot in the NCAA Tournament, and the ride is likely to test the patience of the fans, coaches, and players.

If Crean learned anything from 2008-2011, it was how to get his team to continue to fight; and if fans learned anything, it was the tolerance needed to enjoy watching a team develop.

With this group, no dream is too big, and no nightmare too horrible.

5 thoughts on “Indiana Basketball – Hoosiers Come Close in Bounceback Game at Michigan State; Lose 71-66

  1. Sigh

    Without Payne or a healthy Appling MSU is not even a top 25 team, so IU should probably refrain from beating its chest for keeping it close.

  2. Jeff Gregory

    As this blog has discussed earlier, a lot of us are still on the fence about Crean. The past few games, I have been a little more optimistic. The win versus Wisconsin was huge, the let down follow-up against Northwestern left a bad taste, and the spirited attempt at MSU was far from satisfying. However, when looking at the coaching aspect of these games, I don’t see Crean being all that lacking.

    In fact, I see Crean becoming more and more effective. For example, the 2-3, 3-2 match-up zone he has come up with has left teams off balanced and has seemingly shielded Vonleh from foul trouble which keeps him on the floor more.

    Also, I think Crean has conceded that he doesn’t have a team of shooters, so he plays to their strengths. He has the ball move around at different angles with different match-ups and then turns his players loose on the drive. Sure, I think they stand around a bit too much and greater movement would make a defense a little less able to defend, but that could be a result of a young team that doesn’t know how to find purpose in their movement with this kind of offense. This isn’t my brand of offense, but I guess it beats pretending that the team can shoot and end up giving up possessions without a fight.

    Most of the problems I see from this team derive from the greenness of it. They scream youth, immaturity, and the lack of mental toughness. When a team is not mentally tough, they tend to be more careless with the ball and miss easy layups, etc. Hopefully, they overcome this with experience and with Crean developing a little more of an iron hand. With the recent benching of Hollowell (and giving him the opportunity to earn his way back on the floor) and getting a little more in the faces of the flaky-playing freshmen, it looks like Crean has come to terms with what kind of coach he needs to be.

    IU is not well balanced enough to do much damage this year, but with experience, I think they earn a spot in THE tournament. For next year, the additon James Blackmon, Robert Johnson, and Max Hoetzel (all good shooters), this team could really take off. If it doesn’t, there will be tons of pressure to replace the coach.

    1. kentsterling Post author

      I agree that I have seen more of what I recognize as good coaching this year than any other time in Crean’s tenure at IU.

  3. Doug A

    Nice post Jeff as I agree 100% with you. LOL I just wonder if Crean was deceived thinking one of these freshman were going to be good outside shooters and have let us down. I too feel next year could be special with outside shooting coming in BUT….not sure Vonleh will stick around….we need him!!!

    1. kentsterling Post author

      Must have Vonleh. Without him, the only size comes from Perea and Jurkin. Turner is the only kid left in the top 100 with size. Not sure the alternative if Vonleh leaves. Indiana is still in the game for Stephen Zimmerman at Gorman in Vegas, but he’s a 2015 recruit. Zimmerman is very similar to Cody Zeller in build and athleticism.


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