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BLOOMINGTON -- Indiana is a big underdog tonight at No. 3 Michigan State. It lost a lot of momentum from last week's upset of previously unbeaten Wisconsin with Saturday's loss to Northwestern.
Still the Hoosiers (12-6 overall, 2-3 in the Big Ten) have a chance to upset the Spartans (17-1, 6-0) in the Breslin Center if they do these five things:
Indiana's leading scorer runs the offense. He averages 17.4 points and 4 assists. In the first meeting he had 17 points but negated much of that with five turnovers.
Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said IU's loss to Northwestern boiled down to Ferrell's poor shooting. Ferrell was 2-for-14 for nine points against the Wildcats. He was 10-for-24 for 25 points against Wisconsin.
“I'm not being critical,” Izzo said. “Ferrell has been consistent all year. When your key guys have a bad day, you struggle.”
The former Indiana Mr. Basketball has burned IU in the previous three meetings, including his 26-point effort earlier this month in Assembly Hall. He was 5-for-10 from three-point range. He leads Michigan State in scoring (17.9 points). The Hoosiers must to a better job of defending him on the perimeter. Limiting his touches would be a great place to start.
In the first meeting Indiana had eight assists against 15 turnovers. While the turnovers were a drop of eight from its previous game at Illinois, it still led to 18 fast-break points. That can't happen again, especially at the Breslin Center. If it does, the decibel level will be off the charts. The last thing the Hoosiers need is to give the Izzone student section even more reason to be loud and wild.
“We have to do a better job of decision making and taking care of the ball,” associate head coach Tim Buckley said. "They did a good job of shooting the gaps and coming up with steals and scoring points in situations we weren't able to get our defense set to stop it. We have to do a better job, which we have been. It's been a great emphasis for us.”
Michigan State is always a physical rebounding team, and even without starting forward Adreian Payne (he's doubtful for the fourth straight game with a sprained foot), the Spartans have the size and aggression to control the paint.
Michigan State won the rebound battle the first time (34-32) and totaled 10 offensive rebounds. The Hoosiers can't let that happen again.
It's that simple. Indiana shot just 25 percent against Northwestern. The Wildcats shut down the dribble penetration and forced the Hoosiers to shoot over them. Michigan State also will try to take away the lane. IU must reverse the ball to create inside openings in the defense, make the extra pass and, when it has open outside shots, it must make them.