Michigan State Basketball: 5 Things We Learned from the Spartans Loss to Indiana

Sean MerrimanCorrespondent IFebruary 20, 2013

1. MSU will only go as far as Appling takes them

Take away Keith Appling's two games against Indiana this season, and the Spartans' junior point guard has just as good an argument as anyone for the Big Ten Player of the Year award.

But truth be told, big players step up in big games, and Appling was near invisible when his team needed him the most on Tuesday night.

The Spartans' junior point guard shot a measly 1-of-8 from the field, finishing with just six points and four turnovers in 36 minutes.

Tom Izzo spoke of "distractions" after the game and that they had had a direct effect on the way his team played Tuesday night.

Something tells me that was directly related to something going on with Keith Appling.


2. You can't win in the Big Ten if you don't hit your free throws

This is probably true in any league, be it the NBA, the Big Ten or in high school hoops. But in a game like this, of such high magnitude, you would expect the home team to hit their free throws down the stretch.

That just didn't happen Tuesday night.

The Spartans shot 16-of-23 from the charity stripe, but were just 2-of-6 in the final two minutes, which ultimately cost them the game.

Keith Appling had the chance to give MSU the lead with 1:09 left in the game, but the Spartans' junior captain missed on a one-and-one, which led to an Indiana score shortly after that.

But the heartbreaker came with just four seconds remaining, when Gary Harris was fouled on a three-point attempt with MSU down 70-67 and a chance to tie the game. Harris missed the front end of his first attempt, made the second, and then intentionally missed the third, but Indiana secured the rebound and the game after two free throws of their own.

You can't win big games when you don't hit your free throws.

MSU, a team that is traditionally good from the charity stripe, picked the wrong time to go cold from the line.


3. Victor Oladipo is the Player of the Year in the Big Ten

Did Dick Vitale get a little carried away when he compared Victor Oladipo to a young Michael Jordan last night?

Yes, without a doubt. That was almost as outrageous as his claim that Derrick Nix intentionally hit Cody Zeller in the groin when really, Zeller threw Nix's hand into himself, for some odd season.

But, make no mistake about it, Oladipo is an exceptional college basketball player. As good as Trey Burke and Keith Appling have been this season, Oladipo has proved that he is the best player in the Big Ten, simply by playing his best in the conference's biggest games.

Oladipo is averaging 18.5 points per game against Michigan State, Michigan, Ohio State, Wisconsin and Minnesota, the top five teams in the Big Ten, outside of Indiana.

But it's not just his scoring. Oladipo is an exceptional defender and rebounder. He is the best player on the court for the nation's top-ranked team.

Seems like an MVP resume to me.


4. Gary Harris is the best freshman in the Big Ten

Which is more of a lock: Victor Oladipo being the Big Ten Player of the Year, or Gary Harris being the Big Ten Freshman of the Year?

Harris has been outstanding this season for the Spartans, averaging 13.2 points per game and shooting better than 43 percent from three-point range.

After the loss of All-American Draymond Green, many felt that this could be a rebuilding year for Michigan State. In reality, the Spartans haven't lost a beat, and a large part of that is because of the exceptional play of their freshman shooting guard.

There simply isn't another freshman in the Big Ten who has as big of an impact on his team as Harris does for the Spartans.

This kid is special.


5. The Big Ten race isn't over yet, but IU is certainly a heavy favorite right now.

I said before this game was played, that the winner should at least guarantee themselves a share of the Big Ten Title this season.

Well, with just four games remaining and a one-game lead in the standings, it's going to be awfully tough to find a scenario where Indiana dosen't at least share the title.

At 11-3, the Spartans have four games remaining in conference play as well, and Tom Izzo's team dosen't get much of a break from the gauntlet that is the Big Ten Conference. The Spartans play at Ohio State, at Michigan and home against Wisconsin, before closing out the season at home against Northwestern.

The Spartans will likely need to win out and hope that Indiana slips up somewhere down the stretch if they are going to win another Big Ten Championship.


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