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Monday, June 24
The Indiana Daily Student

sports men's basketball

Hoosiers can't stop Harris

Statistically, No. 3 Michigan State’s Breslin Center is one of the most difficult places to play in college basketball.

The Spartans entered Tuesday night’s contest against IU with a record of 9-1 on their home floor this season and were coming off back-to-back overtime victories over then-No. 3 Ohio State and Minnesota in their last two home games.

To overcome the Spartans’ home-court strength, IU Coach Tom Crean brought his team into the game keying on two keys to the game that often prove vital in capturing Big Ten road victories: limiting turnovers and shutting down the other team’s star player, in Michigan State’s case, sophomore guard Gary Harris.

In the teams’ first matchup on Jan. 4, IU struggled with those goals, committing 15 turnovers and allowing Harris to score 26 points.

“We didn’t follow the game plan, to put it very simply,” Crean said in a press conference before the game. “We weren’t strong enough with the ball. We were a little sloppy with it at times.

“The other thing was we really let Gary Harris get far too comfortable and loose in the game and he did a phenomenal job.”

Crean said his team would learn from its previous mistakes, and through 20 minutes of Tuesday night’s game, it looked like it had: though they turned the ball over nine times, the Hoosiers held Harris to four points in the first half.

IU entered halftime with a 28-27 lead.

IU had followed Crean’s game plan, executing the sixth-year coach’s keys to conference road victories. A slightly above-average number of turnovers hurt, but it had slowed one of the country’s preeminent shooting guards.

And then Gary Harris came out firing.

The Fishers, Ind., native scored Michigan State’s first six points of the second half and nine in the half’s first five minutes. When IU took a five-point lead with just over 10 minutes to play, it was Harris’ two free throws and 3-pointer that kept his team in the game.

Crean tried to find an answer to Harris’ run, but to no avail. The guard finished with 20 points in the half almost single-handedly putting the game out of IU’s reach in the 71-66 victory.

For Harris, success against the Hoosiers was nothing new. His 24 points raised his career average against IU to 22.5 points per game, well above his career average of 14.2 points against all other competition.

Giving up big points to an opposition’s star has been a constant for IU this season. Northwestern’s Drew Crawford scored 17 last week. Illinois’ Rayvonte Rice scored 27 against IU, as did Connecticut’s Shabazz Napier.

But Crean said Harris, who has scored 50 points against his team this season, is at another level.

“Gary Harris was phenomenal,” he said. “He’s very tough. Shoots the ball at a high rate. He’s going to get better and better. He is as good as it gets in that backcourt.”

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