The Indiana Hoosiers are coming off of two very dominant defensive performances that has all of Hoosier Nation hoping that they can carry it into the Sunday afternoon battle with the Michigan State Spartans. After having appeared to exorcise any demons of lethargy that had plagued the Hoosiers in their hole-creating skid of losses, the Hoosiers now look to be one of the baddest (in the best way) sides in the country. Sure a sample size of two games, but I don’t know if there’s another two wins out there that I’d want to come off of more.
Because the Hoosiers didn’t just beat Wisconsin and Illinois, they dismantled them. They methodically controlled the shooting opportunities of the opposition in both of those games, and in turn got the wins. The Hoosiers look to be coming to the understanding that an identity of defensive tenacity and lockdown play is the most deadly one for this squad to take. Based on the last two games, I’d take Indiana against any squad at this point (I’m an often ignorantly optimistic fan). The Hoosiers will need every bit of that defensive pressure to carry over from the deflating of Illinois into their matchup with the Michigan State Spartans.
Michigan State is entering Assembly Hall after having owned the Rutgers Scarlet Knights in East Lansing, 70-57 in East Lansing on Thursday. This impressive win put an end to Michigan State’s 2 game losing streak. Michigan State started slow, allowing Rutgers easy buckets but really turned it on defensively and put the clamps on Rutgers hopes of winning. They held Rutgers to 2-17 from the 3, and credit to them for that.
Unfortunately for Sparty, Indiana’s not going to be looking to beat Michigan State with perimeter daggers. The Hoosiers are going to look to ride the hot hand and feed the engine that is Trayce Jackson-Davis right now. With Indiana looking to get the best shot each time down the floor now, Indiana is going to convert at a much higher rate than a team jacking up 3s in hopes of crawling back into competition. If the Hoosier frontcourt can show up as emotionally charged and tough as they have in these last two, Michigan State is in for a very different game in this one.
Tyson Walker leads the Spartans in points per game with 14.6. Walker can drain it from anywhere on the floor. Shooting 42.2% from three and 45% from the field, every bit of the Hoosiers backcourt pressure will be needed to close out on him in time to affect the ball at its release. Joey Hauser leads the Spartans with 7.7 rebounds a game. When discussing the Michigan State production, it truly is a team effort. In turn, it will take a total defensive effort by the Hoosiers to contain. I believe our boys are up to that task. They’ve shown it twice now.
The Indiana backcourt must limit the turnovers in this one. While the Indiana defense made it possible to still dominate the Illini, most teams would be unable to overcome 17 turnovers committed. We didn’t need an entirely fine tuned offensive game against Illinois, but the time will come. The Hoosiers can’t afford to continue to give the opposition the ammunition to wound them with these lapses in execution. Clean it up, cut them down.
Jalen Hood-Schifino has absolutely stepped up his game defensively. It looks like each and every game Jalen is more and more invested into each and every possession. It is great to see. You can see it clearly in the shots Jalen’s taken as of late. In this Michigan State game I want to see Jalen continue working to find Indiana’s best opportunities as he has made it a point to in the last two games. He has put the quick release 3 on the back burner in favor of working the ball inside. Great to see that maturity taking root, as he understands that the NBA range three (that he IS capable of draining) is always available. If you can take it with 2 seconds on the shot clock just as reliably as you can with 20, why not exercise some options? Good to see Jalen adjusting to the next step in competition.
Trey’s ability to knock down the threes that alluded him all last season has amazed me…
Trey Galloway has stepped up over these last two games to subsidize the defensive pressure lost by Xavier’s injury. We will need him to continue to deliver. Trey is key example of a player getting these minutes now, that when our team is back and all together, that are essential to him being able to deliver when asked to in March. Malik Reneau and Jordan Geronimo absolutely on that list as well.
Speaking of that Malik and Jordan, Indiana’s frontcourt looked absolutely dominant against the Illini and will need to continue that into this matchup with Sparty. In that game IU put out a “We Want Edey” performance, the Hoosiers owned the paint 54-32 over the Illini. While Michigan State will present their own frontcourt issues, as I imagine they will look to collapse on an All-American having his way in the paint, but I don’t see them providing enough to stop the Hoosier Bigs if Indiana is taking the court as nasty as they left it against Illinois.
Malik made crucial steps in his development against the Illinois squad and I expect him to continue to snowball his confidence in this one. Malik was the lone Hoosier off the bench to score and looked bigger (I swear to God I thought he did). His confidence is growing and you can see it physically manifesting itself more each game now. Here’s hoping it continues here.
Jordan has taken astronomical strides in these last two games. He single handedly provided energy and offensive production necessary to kickstart Indiana’s decimation of Illinois. While I thought it would have been Trayce being the one fueling this unit, Jordan is making himself more and more the source of that energy, the momentum that has the Hoosiers playing some of their best ball. The Hoosiers need a third man to step up into a role of prominence on this squad following the injuries to Race and Xavier. Jordan has done than and more in his last two performances, while also managing to limit his foul trouble and play meaningful minutes. Jordan continues to improve and I fully expect his defensive efforts (3 blocks last game) to continue into this one. Proud as a fan of how Jordan has been able to step up to the occasion. I imagine Izzo will collapse on TJD far more often than Illinois had. This game could potentially be a big opportunity for Jordan Geronimo with Trayce getting a lion’s share of the defensive attention.
Trayce Jackson-Davis had his way with Dainja, Meyer, and the Illinois frontcourt. While I imagine Michigan State will look to do more than bellybump our best player into oblivion, if Trayce is playing with the same edge Sparty doesn’t stand a chance.
Trayce looks healthier than ever following his last two performances, and I would hate to find myself in his path right now. The frustrations that came with the losses seam to have been cast away for an entirely new mentality. One in which not even the bigs in the Big Ten can hope to contain. I fully expect Tom Izzy to better scheme for Trayce than Brad Underwood had, but following Trayce’s 35 pt, 9 reb, 5 assists, and 3 blocks performance I don’t know if much will be able to stop him. Trayce is living up to every bit of his preseason All-American billing, and the Hoosiers need him to continue to do just that. Confident that Trayce can continue his killer mentality into this game, played in front of a very excited, and very adoring crowd.
While Miller Kopp hasn’t been contributing many shots, he is still sinking the shots he is taking. Maybe his job is to sit and leave a man out of the paint for Trayce. A man that if he collapses, leaves Miller wide open. So while he has been largely a non factor on the offensive end, maybe he is playing his part to a T. Either way let’s cut him a break here, we don’t know the game plan, and despite his lack of production Indiana is getting dominant victories. I still imagine if the time comes that he has to hit the shots to get us back into one, Miller Kopp can absolutely deliver.
Indiana has finally followed up an emotionally inspired performance with another and I really think they’ve turned the corner. I have faith in the newly invigorated Hoosiers to deliver the victory tomorrow in Assembly Hall. Mike Woodson has been orchestrating minutes like a maestro and has these guys fired up for 40 minutes. A win over Tom Izzy is always welcome. Go and get it Mike.
Thank you all for taking the time to read these short pregame thoughts of an Indiana fan. I just write to pass the time inbetween tips. If you like what you read and think you wouldn’t mind to listen to some of my thoughts, please check out the OFTEN DAUNTED PODCAST. I will be posting a new episode following this one for your Monday morning drive. Have a great day Hoosier fans. Down with Sparty!
LUX ET VERITAS!