Hoosiers and Spartans square off in Big Ten opener
East Lansing, MI – Big Ten Conference play gets underway for 12 campaign, as ranked Indiana Hoosiers come calling on the 16th- ranked Michigan State Spartans.
At 12-0, Indiana is off to its best start since the 1975-76 team went 32-0 and won the national title. The Hoosiers took out visiting UMBC three days before Christmas in their most recent outing, 89-47, and every win this season except for one (73-72 upset of No. 1 Kentucky) has come by double digits. They've outscored their last two opponents by a combined 196-97 margin. This is the first of three straight games IU will play against ranked Big Ten foes, as home dates with Ohio State and Michigan are up next.
Michigan State dropped two games right out of the chute, falling to ACC powers North Carolina and Duke, but since then the Spartans have won 11 in a row. MSU disposed of visiting Lehigh, 90-81, on December 22, and it's only notable wins have been over another ACC foe in Florida State (65-49), and Gonzaga (74-67). Following this contest, the Spartans will hit the road for a pair as they will pay a visit to Big Ten newcomer Nebraska this Saturday, and then head to Madison to take on nationally-ranked Wisconsin next week.
Indiana owns a 65-47 lead in the all-time series with Michigan State, but the Spartans won the last tussle in overtime, 84-83 (January 30, 2011).
Christian Watford logged a double-double consisting of 22 points and 10 rebounds, and Jordan Hulls' Big Ten record of 58 straight made free throws came to an end, but he still scored 16 points to help propel the Hoosiers to their recent blowout win over UMBC. Indiana drained 11 three-pointers in the game, held the Retrievers to 32 percent field goal efficiency, which included a dismal 3-of-15 showing from beyond the arc, easily won the rebounding battle (45-25), and scored 33 points off 19 UMBC turnovers. Matt Roth made the most of his 18 minutes off the bench for the Hoosiers, hitting 4-of-5 three-point tries en route to 14 points. Cody Zeller chipped in with 13 points and six rebounds. Indiana boasts five double-digit scorers on the season, led by Zeller with his 15.1 ppg. He also paces the unit's rebounding effort with 7.3 rpg. Overall, the Hoosiers are the nation's top three-point shooting team (.459), and their 51.1 percent efficiency from the field ranks fifth. They are +25.1 in scoring margin to rank second nationally, and they sit seventh in scoring at 84.8 ppg.
Keith Appling poured in 19 points, Branden Dawson had 14 and new starter Austin Thornton chipped in 11 to lead Michigan State to its recent win over Lehigh. Draymond Green, who came off the bench in the clash, finished with 16 points and 10 rebounds to post his seventh double-double of the season, while the first three guys mentioned combined for 22 boards. The Mountain Hawks actually outshot the Spartans from the floor (.424 to .403), but the home team converted 82.1 percent of their free throws, which was something of a surprise considering coach Tom Izzo's club came into the contest ranked last in the Big Ten in free-throw percentage. As a team, the Spartans are shooting 47.2 percent from the field in netting 76.9 ppg this season. They are +10.8 in rebounding margin and goad the opposition into 15.5 turnovers per outing. They yield just 59.4 ppg on typical shooting outputs 37.3 percent overall and 29.7 percent from three-point land. Green leads the way in scoring (15.5 ppg), rebounds (9.8 rpg) and assists (46), while Appling (11.2 ppg, 44 assists) and Brandon Wood (10.3 ppg, team-high 18 treys) have produced at a high level as well.