When these teams met in East LAnsing a month ago, it was a weird Game. Michigan State led most of the way until about five minutes to go when poor free-throw shooting ended up being too much. It eventually went to overtime with the Hoosiers winning in large part without Juwan Morgan, their second-leading scorer and top rebounder. The same thing kind of happened on Tuesday as Morgan fouled out and they took down Wisconsin in two overtimes.
To sweep Michigan State, Indiana may need a little more help, but playing at home could be that. Otherwise, there’s no reason to think the Spartans will go 9-for-21 from the free-throw line again since they are the best in the Big Ten from the stripe. On the other end, the Hoosiers probably won’t shoot as well after going 10-for-20 from three when they shoot a miserable 26.6% in Big Ten play. If those two numbers were closer to the norms, the first Game would’ve been a double-digit win for MSU. Things will be a little different in Assembly Hall, but MSU already showed it could win at Michigan without Nick Ward, so getting revenge wouldn’t be a surprise.
Indiana’s biggest task will be to limit Cassius Winston, who still managed 26 points, eight boards and seven assists in the first matchup. Winston looks headed for the Big Ten Player of the Year having dropped 55 points, seven boards and 16 assists in the last two Games. Indiana can be feisty on the perimeter, but doesn’t have the length and athleticism that Winston hasn’t seen all season. To win, the Spartans will still need a little more from everyone else and that includes Xavier Tillman, who has stepped up in Ward’s absence with 33 points in the last two Games. The other guy is Matt McQuaid, who had just Four points in the first meeting. He’s managed at least 11 points in Four of the last five Games and his added scoring is the reason the Spartans are winning without Ward. Even then, guys like Kenny Goins, Aaron Henry and Kyle Ahrens still have to be factors. The biggest role for Goins will be to match whatever Morgan does after he let Justin Smith do whatever he wanted in the first Game, including help IU to 20 offensive rebounds.
There’s no doubt Indiana has a chance to win this Game, especially after taking down Wisconsin on Tuesday. It’s still far from an easy team to back since Morgan hasn’t been needed to win Games, while Romeo LAngford is hit-or-miss. LAngford scored 22 points against the Badgers, but failed to surpass 15 in the prior Four Games. He shot 6-for-18 against MSU in the first Game with McQuaid and Henry draped over him so it won’t be easy. The Hoosiers need added production from everyone else yet again to win this Game, whether that’s Aljami Durham and Devonte Green hitting shots or De’Ron Davis imposing his will against Tillman on the block.
The Spartans may have just won at Michigan, but that was because they played smarter. They have the best player on the cOurt, but otherwise, these rosters are fairly equal and there’s no reason the Hoosiers can’t win. Of course, Indiana has had major issues all Conference season and has rarely been an easy team to bet on.