Spartans look to replicate success on the road vs. Hoosiers


Cassius Winston and Tom Izzo/Photo: MSU Athletic Communications

Julian Mitchell, Men's Basketball Beat Reporter

EAST LANSING — The Spartans are all alone at the mountaintop. 

With a 6-1 Big Ten record, No. 11 Michigan State (14-4) is holding onto first place in what has become one of the more contentious conferences in college basketball this year. The Big Ten currently has 12 teams ranked in the NET top 50, and night in and night out they have been beating up on each other, particularly in their home gyms. 

Home teams are 41-7 in this conference, which is why it has been beneficial for MSU to have five of its seven conference games at home so far. 

These home victories include the Spartans’ last game against Wisconsin, where they bounced back from a poor performance against Purdue, to win 67-55. 

Superstar Cassius Winston once again struggled to get it going, finishing with six points, but he got help from his supporting cast. Aaron Henry, Gabe Brown and Rocket Watts all had terrific outings combining for 37 points. Junior forward Xavier Tillman also did some heavy lifting with 15 points on 6-of-14 shooting. 

Sophomore swingman Aaron Henry with coach Tom Izzo. (Credit: Mike Carter – USA TODAY Sports)

It was a solid home victory for the Spartans, but now they’ll have to replicate that on the road on Thursday at one of the toughest venues in college basketball, Assembly Hall. 

There the Indiana Hoosiers (14-4, 4-3 Big Ten) will be waiting for them, a team that swept the Spartans a season ago, earning them two top-10 wins. 

The Hoosiers return home with momentum following their first true road win of the season against Nebraska, 82-74. Like it has been for most of the season, it was a balanced attack that helped them win that game, as three players scored in double figures. 

Indiana currently has four players averaging double digits, with standout freshman Trayce Jackson-Davis leading the way with 14.2 points per game on 63% shooting. Junior forward Justin Smith has also done his job, adding 12.2 points per game on 51% from the field. The Spartans will remember him from a season ago where his 24 points led Indiana to a home win over MSU. 

Where those forwards and the rest of this Indiana team excel is getting points at the free-throw line. The Hoosiers make about 17.8 shots from the line per game. Getting to the line, putting fouls on some of the Michigan State forwards and using that to slow the game down can be huge for Indiana. The Spartans have depth, but a Michigan State team without Tillman or even Marcus Bingham Jr. is easier to take down. 

Indiana does only rank sixth in the conference in scoring offense with 75.1 points per game and with no superstar, the team is prone to offensive droughts. 

Where the offense has struggled, the defense has helped keep the Hoosiers afloat, especially in this last month. They have held three of their last five opponents to 40% shooting from the field. The defense will be key in trying to slow down the likes of Winston and Tillman. 

This game will be big for both teams as it will help the Hoosiers create some separation in the conference and add a big win over a top team to their resume. For the Spartans, a win here would prove that the show can go on the road and keep them atop the Big Ten. 

All signs point to a good matchup in Bloomington. Tip-off is scheduled for 8:30 p.m. and the game will be broadcasted on Fox Sports 1. You can follow our coverage on twitter @WDBMSports.

Contact Julian Mitchell at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter at @j_mitchell25.