I see Spartans of green. Red Hoosiers, too. Which team is worse, I haven’t a clue.
And I think to myself, what a god-awful game.
Some day, an FBI agent desperate to pry answers from a suspected criminal will threaten to show him IU men’s basketball’s 64-58 defeat to Michigan State, and the perp will almost certainly sing like a canary.
I’ve insisted all year that the Hoosiers have skilled shooters and only need to give them more opportunities, but their 10% success rate from beyond the arc sort of throws cold water on that hypothesis. Handing the ball to sophomore forward Trayce Jackson-Davis and praying he works a miracle or two is obviously a flawed strategy, but the best option available isn’t always necessarily a good one.
Sophomore guard Armaan Franklin’s absence was the last thing IU’s shooting-poor squad needed, and it showed Tuesday night against Michigan State.
There’s no great mystery as to why the Hoosiers struggled like they did. Between Jackson-Davis, senior guard Al Durham and their teammates who unpredictably flash from hot to cold like the inside of a freshly microwaved Hot Pocket, IU has about one-and-a-half legitimate scoring threats on the floor at any given time.
Making matters worse was the Hoosiers’ sudden obsession with racking up penalties. Jackson-Davis, Durham, sophomore forward Jerome Hunter and freshman forward Jordan Geronimo each collected three personal fouls by the second half’s under-12 media timeout.
To his credit, junior guard Rob Phinisee did exactly what a point guard is supposed to, logging 16 points and four assists. The problem is those points are supposed to make up a complementary portion of an offense’s scoring total, not 28% of it.
Between Phinisee’s Herculean effort and the Spartans’ own bevy of blunders, the Hoosiers actually managed to remain in a position to snatch victory for the majority of the evening. However, a string of jumpers by Michigan State junior forward Aaron Henry with three minutes remaining proved too much for IU to overcome.
It’s not that the floodgates opened for the Spartans or anything. Rather, the rock that had been wedged in their gears all night long was finally ground into powder, and the big green machine got running again.
Plenty of sports boil down to a war of attrition by the end of the schedule, and IU’s recent misadventures are a prime example. Head coach Archie Miller has to squeeze every drop of potential out of his depth chart to have any hope of reaching the postseason, but that’s a bit tricky when the tree barely bears any fruit.
The Hoosiers have been driving the struggle bus for the better part of their conference slate, and it appears the wheels are falling off right before the finish line.
I really hope I’m not coming across like a total armchair quarterback. Let me be clear — I can hardly motivate myself to tune into my Zoom classes these days. How my fellow college students scrounged up the willpower to bend down and lace up their sneakers, let alone fight for loose balls and rebounds for 40 minutes, is beyond remarkable to me.
Michigan State and IU are both currently projected to just miss out on the NCAA Tournament, and that feels about right. I know the Spartans and Hoosiers have some impressive wins on their resumes, but I would argue simply playing a game that ugly should be an automatic disqualifier.
Not every close competition is exciting, but nearly every game in which neither side cracks 40% shooting from the floor is miserably unexciting. Perhaps there still exists an incredibly niche contingent of basketball fans who relish in a scrappy, sloppy contest like this, but that’s an endangered species I don’t mind seeing die off.
I heard bad shots clank and whistles blow. Which team was worse, I don’t fully know.
I just think to myself, what a god-awful game.