Despite all the mismatches and statistical disadvantages IU had to overcome Saturday night, the Hoosiers found themselves with a chance to win as sophomore guard Devonte Green’s last-second heave hung in the air.
IU had taken No. 5 Michigan State all the way to the wire despite shooting worse than 30 percent in the game. A dominant rebounding performance and a late spurt to tighten the gap had brought the Hoosiers within striking distance, but failure in the game’s final minute left the win seemingly out of reach.
Two late missed free throws by the Spartans allowed Green to get off a miracle attempt that clanked off iron, and the Hoosiers came up short again in a 63-60 loss. IU Coach Archie Miller said he sees one big hurdle his team needs to get over before being able to beat opponents like Michigan State.
“We brought the fight to the game that we needed,” Miller said. “The last two to three minutes you just have to find a way to make a couple plays, and I think that’s what teams who know how to win do.”
The Hoosiers’ fight was tested early as the Spartans established their defensive post presence out of the gate. IU had a five-minute scoreless stretch in the game’s first 10 minutes and missed 20 of its first 22 shots. But Michigan State found itself unable to pull away, and the Hoosiers kept a manageable eight-point halftime deficit.
IU’s first half struggles stemmed largely from a woeful 6-35 shooting performance — just 17.1 percent. Michigan State had nine blocks before the break, including six from freshman forward Jaren Jackson Jr.
Stifled in the paint and struggling from behind the arc, it would have been easy for IU to desperately experiment with new looks on offense. But the Hoosiers stuck with what’s worked all season and continued to feed the post — Juwan Morgan, to be more specific.
The junior forward had 19 of his game-high 23 points in the second half as he helped IU hang around early and apply some real pressure on Michigan State as the game reached its critical moments.
“I was just missing some easy bunnies,” Morgan said of his first-half problems. “I didn’t let it derail me from going into the post and doing what’s been working for me all year.”
With 2:22 left in the game, Morgan hit a free throw that brought IU within one point. From there, Michigan State showed the winning attitude Miller referenced by hitting a clutch three-pointer and playing defense well enough to prevent any more meaningful baskets by IU.
Green’s three-point play in the closing seconds and subsequent chance at sending the game to overtime only added more heartbreak to the loss for IU, which has now taken three different top-five teams down to the wire this season. Each time, the Hoosiers came out on the losing end, but Morgan said he and the rest of his teammates have to be sure to pick their heads up each time.
“We can’t keep saying, ‘Oh we lost another one. Here goes another one,’” Morgan said. “We just have to be ready to attack another day and another game.”
The losses are beginning to pile up for IU, as Saturday night marked the fourth one in a row. The Hoosiers are 12-12 overall, 5-7 in the Big Ten and headed for a road date at Rutgers in two short days.
As Miller reiterated Saturday, IU’s compressed schedule has already been discussed ad nauseam. It’s just something the team is dealing with. After another close loss against another elite team, Miller said the Hoosiers seem ready and eager for the opportunities coming.
“I wasn’t in a locker room tonight where everyone was disconnected or down,” Miller said. “That was a locker room right there where if we could’ve played another one tonight, we would’ve played another one.”
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