Derrick Nix versus Cody Zeller was the 1-on-1 matchup to watch going into Tuesday night's Spartans-Hoosiers duel.
The Indiana Hoosiers didn't stumble as the top-ranked team Tuesday night during a 72-68 victory over the No. 4-ranked Michigan State Spartans, winning at the Breslin Center in East Lansing for the first time since 1991.
The Hoosiers proved by going on the road and downing Tom Izzo's Spartans (11-3, 22-5) that they are indeed the kings of the Big Ten. With first place on the line, Tom Crean's crew came through under pressure when it mattered most, moving to 12-2 in league play and 24-3 overall.
Games like these are valuable teaching tools, educating college basketball followers on how great teams respond in the face of adversity and how to triumph with backs against the wall.
The Hoosiers did that.
Let's take a look at 10 lessons that Indiana's win over Michigan State taught us on this Tuesday night.
What hurt ankle? Victor Oladipo appeared to be running at full speed Tuesday night.
Victor Oladipo, the Indiana Hoosiers' player of the year candidate, was questionable for Tuesday's showdown due to a lingering ankle injury.
But you wouldn't have known by watching him the first half. He sliced, diced and dunked his way to nine points, four rebounds, three steals and an assist in the first 20 minutes, guiding the Hoosiers to a 36-30 lead at break time.
Oladipo's tip-in gave the Hoosiers a 68-67 edge with just seconds left on the clock, tying Michigan State's Gary Harris with a game-high 19 points to go with nine rebounds, five steals and a block.
Proof is in the pudding, and Oladipo has the recipe on how to derail the Spartans—he put up 21 points during Indiana's 75-70 win Jan. 27 in Bloomington.
Adreian Payne had a pair of three-pointers in the first half.
Adreian Payne has burst onto the scene as of late, etching a reputation as one of the most versatile big men in all of college hoops.
The Spartans junior may have put together the best eight-minute stretch of his career early in the first half by knocking down a pair of three-pointers en route to a team-high 10 points.
Payne hit his second long-ranger of the night, putting the Spartans within a point, down 15-14, with about 13 minutes until halftime.
But he didn't stop there.
Hoosiers center Cody Zeller had two open looks on the next possession, but Payne followed with two blocks in an attempt to keep the Spartans from falling too far behind.
The 6'10" agility-filled big man had 17 points and nine rebounds to complement a 3-of-3 night from long range.
Cody Zeller took matters into his own hands during the opening minutes against Michigan State on Tuesday night.
Cody Zeller was held to just nine points on 2-of-7 shooting Jan. 27 during the Hoosiers' 75-70 victory over the Spartans in Bloomington.
The sophomore center started off much better Tuesday, scoring six of Indiana's first 13 points by way of jumpers and layups. However, he cooled off during the latter stretch of the first and didn't get a touch for almost five minutes as the initial 20 minutes drew to a close.
Magic Johnson called Zeller "the most complete player in college basketball" he's seen this season. That's high praise from a guy who essentially set the gold standard in which all Big Ten players are measured.
Zeller didn't exactly dominate, but his 17 points and five rebounds were certainly major factors in the Hoosiers' first win in East Lansing since the George H.W. Bush administration.
Derrick Nix had a lot to prove Tuesday night.
Derrick Nix may have shot off his mouth a bit too much prior to meeting Indiana.
The Spartans senior re-tweeted a less-than-flattering phrase about Hoosiers center Cody Zeller earlier in the week and was the subject of a Twitter attack by an ESPN radio host out of Ft. Wayne, Ind.
Nix said this, he said that..it was a war of words on a digital platform. The Twittersphere was on fire with sharp-tongued remarks from both sides of the Hoosiers-Spartans rivalry. Nix was a culprit who contributed to the wildness, and he had no choice but to back up his thoughts of the Spartans being underrated.
— DailyB10 (@DailyB10) February 15, 2013
So did he back up his words?
Yes—and the Lansing State Journal's Brian Calloway's simple post summed up Nix's determination with just over two minutes to play..
Nix with the last four points for #MSU, which leads 66-63
— Brian Calloway (@brian_calloway) February 20, 2013
Nix finished the night with eight points, four rebounds and three assists. His stat line wasn't sparkling, but without Nix's physicality, the Hoosiers would have walked all over Michigan State.
Gary Harris was one of Indiana's top prep players in 2011-12.
Former Hamilton Southeastern star Gary Harris is well-known in his home state of Indiana.
He may be a Hoosier by virtue of residence, but the freshman is more than true to the Michigan State Spartans.
Harris, a "top-five freshman" in college basketball according to Magic Johnson, had a praise-worthy line of 19 points (tied Victor Oladipo for game-high total), three steals and a rebound.
He missed the first of three foul shots in the closing seconds—that hurt Michigan State. But other mistakes by the team were to blame for the loss, not Harris' 1-of-3 appearance (he shot 6-of-9 from the stripe overall).
Sophomore Branden Dawson was among the top preps in the 2011 class and starred at Lew Wallace High in Gary. Although he was recruited by Hoosier State programs like Purdue and Indiana, the 5-star phenom chose to go north to Michigan State, and he's constantly reminded of that decision when he faces the Hoosiers and Boilers.
Dawson had a message of his own Tuesday, but it was rather lukewarm—he scored just eight points and had four rebounds, but the rebounds were of the monstrous variety, so they're still worth noting.
Michigan State averaged 45 points per second half in five prior games before meeting Indiana.
The No. 4-ranked Michigan State Spartans came into Tuesday night's duel with the No. 1-ranked Indiana Hoosiers averaging 45 points per second half in their five prior outings.
Down 36-30 at the break, Michigan State couldn't reach the 45-point threshold that would have resulted in a 75-72 victory.
Hosting the top team in the land with first place in the Big Ten on the line isn't the time to stall.
Keith Appling wasn't his typical self Tuesday against Indiana.
Keith Appling didn't have a repeat of his three-point offering Jan. 27 during Michigan State's 75-70 loss to Indiana, but he was far from spectacular during Tuesday's Big Ten battle with the No. 1 Hoosiers in East Lansing.
He was again ineffective for the most part. The Indiana Hoosiers have Appling's number, and it's not the "11" on his jersey, it's "3-6," the range of points he's put up in two meetings with Tom Crean's bunch (scored six Tuesday).
Appling could have given the Spartans a little breathing room with just over a minute left—the Spartans led 67-66—but he missed a 1-and-1 after drawing a reach-in foul from Cody Zeller.
The former Detroit Pershing sensation is one of the better guards in the country, but he hasn't shown up against the Hoosiers.
Will Sheehey provided energy off the bench for the Hoosiers.
Will Sheehey was to start in place of Victor Oladipo if needed.
However, Sheehey stuck to his familiar role of bench maestro Tuesday, following his 9-of-9 shooting performance against Purdue with plenty of energy and defense that gave the host Spartans all they could handle in the transition game.
Sheehey scored just two points to go with three rebounds, a block and an assist, but his presence gave the Hoosiers a much-needed jolt.
Denzel Valentine continues to develop, but he wasn't as sharp Tuesday as he's been of late.
Denzel Valentine may not have appeared to be in full form Tuesday—that's because he really wasn't.
But if not for his hustle for loose balls in the first half, the Spartans would have likely faced more than a six-point deficit. Valentine continues to boost his stock with flashy passes and stay-put defensive efforts.
Relieving sophomore Travis Trice hasn't been easy for Valentine, but the frosh has done an adequate job stepping in for Trice during the past handful of games.
However, he's still too reluctant at times. With 21.8 seconds to go, Valentine received a pass in the lane from a befuddled Derrick Nix.
But instead of going up with the ball, Valentine froze and coach Tom Izzo called a timeout.
He finished with a bench-high six points and seven rebounds. Again, as mentioned in an earlier slide, other factors like turnovers, poor ball-handling, rushed shots, squandered possessions and overall lack of zeal led to the loss, not Valentine's indecision.
Magic Johnson called the action with Dick Vitale and Mike Tirico of ESPN.
Although he's considered the Michigan State Spartans' greatest player, Magic Johnson did a respectable job of keeping his allegiance to the Green and White to a minimum while calling Tuesday night's game with ESPN's Mike Tirico and Dick Vitale.
Vitale, in all of his glory, was overzealous and pandered to Magic for most of the first half, but Magic routinely deflected the attention and kept his focus where it belonged—on the guys on the court.
Johnson's jersey hangs in the rafters at the Breslin Center because of his legendary sophomore season in which he helped lead the Spartans to the 1979 NCAA national title by defeating Larry Bird's Indiana State Sycamores in Salt Lake City.
Follow Bleacher Report's Michigan State Spartans basketball writer Adam Biggers on Twitter @AdamBiggers81