Blowout losses are disappointing enough on their own, particularly for a team riding a three-game winning streak and starting to gather real momentum.
When a team’s leading scorer gets hurt in the first half of said blowout, like junior forward Juwan Morgan did in IU’s game at Michigan State, it quite literally adds injury to insult.
The Hoosiers went into East Lansing with increasing confidence on Friday night, but left with an 85-57 defeat and an injured star as the No. 9 Spartans pulled away in the first half and piled it on late.
IU was already down by more than 20 points when Morgan landed awkwardly on his left ankle with less than three minutes to play in the first half. But when he limped into the locker room, the loss seemed certain.
Morgan never came back out of the locker room after the injury, and after the game, IU Coach Archie Miller couldn’t do much but confirm that his third-year forward had suffered a left ankle injury.
“I was told at halftime it was an ankle and they were going to keep him in here in the locker room and evaluate him, and maybe start some treatment on him if he couldn’t go,” Miller said on his postgame radio show.
The Hoosiers, now 11-8 overall and 4-3 in the Big Ten, hung with the Spartans in the early going. At the 16-minute mark in the first half, the Hoosiers led 10-9 and were shooting above 50 percent from the floor. But Michigan State relented with an up-tempo offense that wore down IU early on, and an 18-0 Spartan run ensued.
Michigan State built an early rebounding advantage – they would finish the game with 45 rebounds to IU’s 27 – and pushed the ball often. Miller used nine different Hoosiers to try and slow the Spartans down at times, but they struggled to keep up.
“They were very, very motivated to run the floor,” Miller said. “We just couldn’t sustain it over the course of the first half in terms of getting back.”
Meanwhile, IU’s offense went cold after a hot start, and the 3-point woes that have plagued the team all season returned. Senior guards Robert Johnson and Josh Newkirk made all eight of IU’s 3-pointers, but Newkirk needed 12 attempts to make just four while the rest of the Hoosiers aside from Johnson missed all eight of their shots from deep.
Johnson was the most consistent presence on the court for IU throughout the game, as the usually reliable Morgan struggled in the 16 minutes before he was injured. Johnson finished the game 21 points on 7-13 shooting to go along with seven rebounds.
Miller, who was visibly frustrated on the sidelines at times during the game, said his offense was inept for too long and lamented the lack of loose balls his team corralled.
“That’s where the game got away from us in the first half, and then we pretty much had to fight uphill the rest of the way,” Miller said.
Michigan State, led by 22 points from sophomore forward Miles Bridges, came out in the second half and continued to push the tempo while dominating the boards. The Spartans ended the game shooting 54 percent from the floor and 50 percent from deep.
Next up for IU is a quick turnaround with a home game against Maryland on Monday night. With Morgan’s availability up in the air, Miller said his other players may have to step up.
"We have to re-evaluate (Morgan) and see where he’s at over the next couple days, but we have to have an opportunity on Monday at home,” Miller said. “And that’s what our guys have to be locked in on right now."
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