Michigan must reignite offense in critical game against Indiana
When Michigan State played Indiana 10 days ago, they finished the game with their best offensive streak of the season.
Clearing a 10-point road deficit in the second half, the Spartans scored 52 points after halftime, shot better than 55% from the field and 3 points, and managed 85% of their free throws . They only returned the ball four times at half-time.
This performance served as the starting point for the Spartans’ two wins against the top five teams the following week. Those three wins brought Michigan State back from the brink and in contention for the NCAA tournament.
But now, facing Indiana on Tuesday night (8 p.m., BTN), the Spartans will have to try to summon that offensive effort again if they are to win in what has become perhaps the most important to his NCAA tournament chances.
Since the Indiana game, the Spartans have gotten worse offensively with each game, in terms of efficiency. That culminated in a Sunday loss to Maryland in which Michigan State shot just 33 percent and scored 55 points.
“Today the ball didn’t bounce back towards us,” said Spartans forward Aaron Henry. “I’m not going to come home and pout, I’m not going to come home and bow my head.” I’m going to get ready for the next opportunity on Tuesday because that’s what is needed.
There are many possible reasons for this slowdown, some more easily repaired than others.
A big factor on Sunday was undoubtedly a staunch defense of Maryland. The Terrapins have now held four of their last five opponents to under 60 points and under 39 percent on shots. Darryl Morsell, a contender for the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year, returned from injury and led the charge, choking Henry, who shot 4 for 16.
Henry appeared to see increased defensive attention, with up to three defenders on him as he drove into the lane. He came out of this situation often, leading to four assists, but the rest of the squad were unable to make up for their missed production.
“Teams have done it before,” Henry said of the defensive strategy. “We have guys on our team who can shoot the ball. The guys just missed some shots today.
Spartans coach Tom Izzo also highlighted his team’s struggles in the point guard. Rocket Watts and AJ Hoggard combined two assists and seven points in 30 minutes of play.
And the state of Michigan was way too dependent on the 3 points. A team that is 12th in 3-point percentage won 28 against the Terrapins, part of a day in which Izzo said Michigan State was questionable in their shooting selection throughout the game.
“They weren’t terrible hits, they were just hits we weren’t doing all day,” Izzo said. “I wanted to go to the hole, there were times we tried to do it and we didn’t get the call or get the bucket.”
There is also the fear that the state of Michigan will simply run out to play a shortened rotation for a period of six games in 13 days. On top of Henry’s 4-for-16 day, Michigan State’s second in minutes Joshua Langford went 3-for-13 against Maryland.
Playing in Indiana again, however, could provide a boost. The Hoosiers have the third worst defense in conference and have lost three straight games.
In the two teams’ last clash, the Spartans made their debut with their small ball lineup, featuring Watts, Langford, Henry and Gabe Brown alongside a rotating center and were successful. The squad produced Michigan State’s most effective offensive performance in the Big Ten game.
That offensive effort was needed to overcome the 34 points Hoosiers forward Trayce Jackson-Davis scored against the Spartans in the first clash.
But when Michigan State appears in court on Tuesday night, it won’t be thinking about its declining offensive performance or its last clash against Indiana in a period that has been to focus on the next task.
“Through so many lows and lows throughout the season, and maybe a few highs throughout the past week, we’ve tried to keep a balanced attitude and try to think about it someday at the times, ”Henry said.