BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — The Spartans probably never want to come back to Indiana again.
A place that is almost synonymous with basketball has not been kind to Michigan State, as the Spartans have a 15-46 record at Assembly Hall. One more will now be added to the loss column after the Indiana Hoosiers edged out No. 11 Michigan State at home, 67-63.
The Hoosiers now have three straight wins over Michigan State after sweeping the Spartans a season ago. Just like this one, both games came down to the wire, and while the losses stung, they turned out to be important lessons for the Spartans.
Here are my three takeaways from the Spartans’ loss at Assembly Hall.
Starting in a hole
With the loss to Indiana, the Spartans now drop to 14-5. Five losses on the season and while they all came at different points, they all started the same way. In each of these losses, Michigan State came out of the gates at a slug’s pace.
Taking on Kentucky in the Champions Classic, MSU shot 30% from the field and trailed by 10, in Maui against Virginia Tech the field goal percentage was better at 40% and trailed by 4, against Duke 36% and trailed by 16 and in the worst loss of the season at Mackey Arena they shot 35% and trailed by 17.
In the first half in Bloomington, they shot 33% and were down by 11 at one point. The lead would grow to as much as 15 in the first half before they started to pick up the play. MSU was out-toughed and outworked to start as Indiana rebounded well and pounded the ball inside, outscoring MSU 20-8 in the paint.
The Big Ten is clearly one of the toughest, if not the toughest conference in the nation. Games are going to be hard to win, especially on the road. MSU cannot afford to put itself in a hole early and hope to climb out of it. The Spartans need to put a game together from start to finish.
Signs of life
While Michigan State dug itself a hole, credit has to be given to what the Spartans showed in battling back in this one. Against Purdue, it was clear that they weren’t climbing back into the game, but here they came out in the second half and came out with the activity and demeanor they needed to for the entire 40 minutes.
Coming out of halftime, sophomore Gabe Brown connected on two triples to cut into the lead and MSU as a squad hit its first five threes in the half. Brown was a bright light in the game, finishing with 10 points, 4-of-6 from the field and 2-of-3 on 3-pointers.
Cassius Winston would hit a triple as well and then-freshman guard Rocket Watts got in his bag and pulled out a stepback three to give MSU its first lead of the game.
While it didn’t come in the second half, Aaron Henry did hit back-to-back threes at the tail end of the first half which kept MSU within double digits at halftime. He finished with 12 points on 5-of-11 shooting and 2-of-4 from 3-point land.
The Spartans showed that they can take a punch and get up off the canvas in this one, and for a team that still has a lot to figure out, this was a good sign.
Changes are coming
Head coach Tom Izzo made one thing very clear in his post-game press conference, changes are coming for this team.
“I’m going to look at some changes, I think we got to, (we need) a sense of urgency,” Izzo said.
It’s unclear what those changes might be, but a change in lineups and rotations might be on the horizon.
Freshman Malik Hall, who has mostly seen the floor as a power forward, did get a stint at the three spot in this game, but that was mostly due to the size of Indiana and the Hoosiers’ strength inside. Izzo also did have Winston go off the ball in the game to get him some looks, which was a nice wrinkle.
The Spartans will now make a quick turnaround to Minneapolis to take on Minnesota at Williams Arena on Sunday. Whatever lesson learned at Indiana, it will have to show to get a win on the road.
Tip-off is scheduled for 3 p.m. and will be broadcast on FOX.
Contact Julian Mitchell at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at @j_mitchell25.