The Assembly Hall
The crowd at The Assembly Hall was on fire an hour before tipoff. At tip off they were crazy. When Indiana native and Spartan sophomore Branden Dawson had two quick turnovers, the Hoosiers jumped out to a quick 4- start.
The Spartans, playing on house money were no intimidated. At the first media timeout the Spartans had the game notched up at 13. If that didn’t signal that this was going to be a dogfight nothing would. The Spartans had taken IU’s early emotional bounce and were on the hunt.
The Hoosiers gained some separation from the Spartans. They had a 20-17 lead and the ball at the 11:32 point. When moments before Gary Harris had been at the free throw line, the IU students chanted “Gary Sucks,” at the Indiana native. Izzo shook his head, humorous considering the Izzone does say much worse, but still not funny. Harris is tough and he used it to his advantage. The P.A. announcer let the Indiana crowd know that, “Singling out a play can result in a technical foul.” To which the students laughed.
Down 28-19 with 7:31 to go and The Assembly Hall on fire, Travis Trice nailed a big three. Until the referee gave him an offensive foul for pushing off. That nullified the bucket and if it was humanly possible, the Hall got even louder. The underrated Hoosier defense was the MVP early in this one. They were all over the court and suffocated the Spartans with nearly every possession.
With 6:51 left in the half the Spartans had cut the deficit to five at 28-23. Adreian Payne appeared to be lucky not to get called for a goaltending with a put back jam. Branden Dawson followed that with a steal on the ensuing inbounds play for the Hoosiers and another sky high slam.
With 5:03 left in the first half Travis Trice nailed a three point play and that tied the game at 28. Again the Spartans had taken the Hoosiers best shot and again the Spartans had fought back. Each and every time the Spartans came back, the Hoosier faithful seemed to take their insane level of noise up a notch. The Spartans kept fighting kept punching and refused to be intimidated.
A three point bucket by Harris gave the Spartans the 31-30 lead, but it didn’t last. As the Hoosiers fans rose to a fevered pitch their team responded. Marching off 8 unanswered points the Hoosiers took the 38-31 lead heading in to the final media timeout of the first half.
This game had the feel of a Final Four. It was Rocky Balboa vs. Apollo Creed. It was back and forth and nip and tuck. It was a battle.
With 5:17 left in the game and the Spartans down three Keith Appling suffered his fifth and final foul. The Spartans newest captain failed to lead or even contribute offensively. He was 1 for 3, for three points. He had no assists and four turnovers. It was brutal.
Tom Izzo said of Appling performance that, “Appling is the guy we go to down the stretch, but he didn’t play the whole second half.” IU’s young star Yogi Ferrell said of the Hoosier plan to get Appling out of the game that, “We knew, defensively, that he likes to get to the middle of the floor, so myself and my team kept him out of the middle and tried to keep him on the sideline.”
The Spartans couldn’t get it done. They lost 75-70, but with an amazing home crowd for the Hoosiers, and Appling essentially not showing up, there is no shame in this loss. MSU fought valiantly. Some bad fouls and 19 turnovers did the Spartans in along with missed layups.
I am not a fan of mental victories and I still am not. This was as close as you could come. MSU had nothing to lose with this game and IU had it all. Tom Izzo said of the loss, “Tommy’s team is very athletic. That is a very very good basketball team. We kept competing. I don’t want to feel too good about my team and I don’t want to feel too bad. 90% of what I learned about our team is positive. The one negative is when we get tired to we have the ability to suck it up. But the best guy to do that is Appling and he was an assistant coach and a real bad one. I don’t enjoy him there at all.”
Izzo went on to say of the game, “It’s disappointing because we had a chance. We did some real good things, and we did some things real poor things.”
Tom Crean waxed poetic of the match saying, “We knew they were really good and I don’ think there is any doubt about that. If they were a football team they would be so balanced with their inside scoring and outside scoring. I start with that because this was a game of adjustments. I think they are really really good. To get this win, in this environment was big. To keep them off the foul line was huge.”
Gary Harris had an amazing day. He had 21 points to lead the Spartans. If that is sucking I am sure he would be glad to play that way every night. Adreian Payne had 18, including three from the three point line. Payne also had nine big rebounds. Branden Dawson also had 12 to round out the Spartans only three scorers in double digits. MSU only had six players score. Travis Trice led with five assists, but unfortunately had five turnovers.
The crowd today here at The Assembly Hall was amazing. The gauntlet has been cast. Can the Spartan Nation show up on February 19, to give MSU that same advantage at the Breslin when IU returns? Can they do it every game for the rest of the Big Ten?
Tom Izzo had a lot to ponder on the team jet back to East Lansing. He said he did learn something about this team. What was it? “Our guys are fighters!” I agree.
The Spartans fall to 17-4 (6-2) on the season. They now have to get their attention focused on Illinois who comes to the Breslin Center on Thursday for a tilt at 7 P.M.