It wasn't much of a game the last time these two teams met, and junior forward Juwan Morgan was injured in the first half, which kept him out of the remainder of the contest.
Five Michigan State players reached double-digit scoring, and the Hoosiers were outshot by over 21 percent from the field Jan. 19.
Take a look at what happened in East Lansing, Michigan, just a few weeks ago.
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 Jan. 19, but they left with an 85-57 defeat and an injured star as the then-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 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.
Morgan's injury wasn't significant, and didn't keep him out of any games following the loss at Michigan State. He's been IU's leading scorer in every single game since, and if IU has any shot at knocking off the No. 5 team in country this time around, it all starts with him.
That is the way IU has played its best basketball, along with heavy contributions from Johnson and sometimes freshman forward Justin Smith.
The Hoosiers struggled in the post the last time these two met, and Michigan State's frontcourt thrived as a result. Bridges and forward Nick Ward combines for 40 points, and the Spartans' accurate shooting performance just added more fuel to the flames.
Slow, flat starts have been an issue for IU from time to time throughout the season, and the Hoosiers' last game was no different.
Outscored 38-23 in the first half, IU was never able to catch up to Ohio State even though the two teams each scored 33 points in the second period.
It was a similar performance to that of the Michigan game from Dec. 2, 2017, where the Hoosiers wee outscored 34-21, which was too much once again for IU to catch up to.
For the second straight game, the Hoosiers were hampered by the opponents' forwards down low.
First, it was Purdue forward Isaac Haas, who dropped 26 points in the paint. Then, it was Ohio State forward Jae'Sean Tate, who had 16 of his own and led all Buckeye scorers.
The two created headaches for IU, and it doesn't get any easier facing Bridges and Ward for the second time this season.
Senior forward Collin Hartman will be another question mark for the Hoosiers to answer on game day. A knee injury kept him sidelined against Ohio State, and Miller said he still didn't know if he would be ready for Michigan State.
Hartman brings more depth in the frontcourt, which is thin enough as it is; three-point shooting; and a reliable leader on the floor. If he's not able to play against Michigan State, senior Freddie McSwain and freshman Justin Smith will once again anchor the frontcourt alongside Morgan.
Freshman forward Clifton Moore hasn't seen game time since the last time IU faced Michigan State and has only made appearances in seven games up to this point. Even with Hartman out against Ohio State, Moore didn't see the floor, so it's presumed that he won't see game time this time around unless it starts to get ugly.
IU has the home crowd on its side this time around, and we saw it play a factor into the close loss against Purdue just six days earlier. Anything can happen in Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall, but if the Hoosiers can't fix the issues that have plagued them all season long, it will be an ugly result once more.
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