Scouting Report: Michigan State

Scouting Report: Michigan State

IU lost to Michigan State at home on Jan. 4 73-56, and since then the Hoosiers have been up and down while the Spartans are yet to drop a game in the Big Ten. The Hoosiers have the advantage of likely not facing Adreian Payne, who is injured, but that hasn't bothered the Spartans yet.

Here's a closer look at Tuesday's Indiana opponent:

Michigan State Spartans (17-1, 6-0)

Last time out: W, 78-62 at Illinois on Saturday

With a win in Champaign, Ill. over the weekend, the Spartans became the first Michigan State team to record 17 wins in their first 18 games, and head coach Tom Izzo moved into fourth place in all-time Big Ten wins with 215, moving past former-Illinois head coach Lou Henson.

But in the beginning of the first half, the Illini weren't making it easy. They took a two-point lead at 16-14 with 9:51 remaining in the half, but the Spartans slowly, but surely created a dominating lead they wouldn't relinquish. Michigan State led 35-25 at halftime after shooting 50 percent from the field and holding Illinois to just 33.3 percent.

The Illini would close within six points at 59-53 with 6:11 left in the game after Tracy Abrams sank a pair of free throws, but Michigan State's Keith Appling followed it with a 3-pointer that kept the Illini at an arms length.

Sophomore guard Gary Harris led the Spartans with a game-high 23 points, and Appling followed with 15 along with Denzel Valentine who matched Appling's total. The Spartans won their 10th game in a row, their only loss of the season coming in a 79-65 decision to North Carolina in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge.

2012-13 season

Record: 27-9 (13-5 in the Big Ten Conference)

The Spartans suffered an early loss in the team's 2012-13 campaign, losing to Connecticut 66-62 on Ramstein Air Base in Germany. It was the team's second-straight season-opening loss after they fell to North Carolina the season before on the USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier.

But from there, the Spartans stormed through the rest of their non-conference opponents, losing only to Miami 67-59 in the Big Ten-ACC Challenge. They took their 11-2 record and a No. 18 ranking to Minneapolis and fell in their first conference game of the season to Minnesota before winning six in a row.

Michigan State would then fall to Indiana in Bloomington 75-70 Jan. 27 before another five-game conference win streak. The end of the regular season proved tough, though, as the Spartans had to face ranked teams Indiana, Ohio State and Michigan in a row, losing to all three before winning their final conference games against Wisconsin and Northwestern to earn he No. 3 seed in the conference tournament. The Spartans fell to Ohio State in the semi-finals 61-58, but the team earned a No. 3 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

Once in the tournament, the Spartans breezed through their first two opponents, taking down No. 14-seeded Valparaiso and No. 6-seeded Memphis. The No. 2 seed in the Midwest region, though, proved too tough in the Sweet 16. The Duke Blue Devils took down the Spartans 71-61.

What they do well:

The Hoosiers have the advantage of facing Michigan State without arguably their best player in Adreian Payne, who's been out for the past three games with an ankle injury and is unlikely to play Tuesday. The Spartans, though, have not wavered in his absence, winning all three games by double-digits. This Michigan State team, as IU assistant coach Tim Buckley said Monday, is very versatile and deep, with players like Branden Dawson, Kenny Kaminski, Matt Costello and Alex Gauna who can make up for Payne's post presence.

Michigan State also showed in its first game against the Hoosiers that the Spartans can stretch you out while demanding defense both inside and out. Several times, Harris was left wide-open behind the 3-point line, and he hit 5-of-10 3-pointers that afternoon. Harris, the preseason Big Ten Player of the Year, is a player who you don't let out of your sight for a second, but with bigger guys in the post that make it tough for IU's thin group of post players to compete, the Spartans were able to move the ball around enough times to find the open shot. As a team, they shot 10-for-24 behind the 3-point line, and they led the Hoosiers on points in the paint 30-18.

Star players:

G Gary Harris, So.

Harris had by far his best game of the season against the Hoosiers less than three weeks ago, and he's been known for performing well against the team he nearly called his own during his senior year of high school. The sophomore guard from Fishers, Ind. scored 26 points on 8-of-18 shooting in Bloomington on Jan. 4 while knocking down 5-of-10 3-pointers.

Earlier this season, the Hoosiers left Harris wide-open far too many times, and he took advantage of it. With the threats of the rest of his team in the post, Harris was able to get open as IU's guards strayed just a little too far away from him. Look for him to try to play in and out again Tuesday evening.

Buckley also noted during Tuesday's press conference that Harris is a major threat on the defensive end as well. In the teams' first meeting this season, he snagged five steals in IU's 15 turnovers. Even when he's not directly guarding you, Buckley said, you have to be wary of Harris reaching over and swiping at the ball.

G Keith Appling, Sr.

Appling creates quite the 1-2 punch in Michigan State's backcourt with Harris. He's actually emerged this season as a stronger shooter than his counter-part, shooting 48.4 percent from the floor and 45.3 percent behind the 3-point line.

His sharp passes, though, help facilitate the rest of the Spartans' potent offense. Appling poses a threat with the ball at the top of the key, able to squeeze a pass through defenders (he's accumulated 82 assists this season) or drive the ball to the hoop with his great explosiveness.

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