Michigan State Basketball: Observations from much-needed win at Indiana

Michigan State basketball picked up a big win at Indiana on Saturday afternoon. Let’s break down some quick observations from the win.

Michigan State went on the road to secure a win against Indiana when its back was against the wall. When the Spartans fell behind 19-6 early on, it seemed as though their recent misery would continue yet they battled back and kept their composure to get the job done.

Here were some observations on what helped fuel Michigan State’s huge road win:

  • AJ Hoggard’s confidence is down the drain (he went scoreless in only eight minutes of court time). Rocket Watts filled in admirably once the starter Hoggard was pulled. Foster Loyer was out with a shoulder injury therefore Tom Izzo had no choice but to bring Watts off the bench and have him run the team. The junior from Detroit gave his team a solid 32 minutes of play and he fed the hot hand (Aaron Henry) all afternoon. Watts refrained from launching ill-advised shots and hounded the Hoosier guards on defense. His body language was outstanding and so was his attitude. He is more comfortable at the two but this was an inspiring instance where a player put team success above his own shine. If Watts returns to the form he demonstrated at the tail-end of his sophomore season, he and incoming freshman point guard Jaden Akins would make for an electrifying backcourt next year.
  • Michigan State limited Indiana to four 3-pointers (on 19 attempts). Their perimeter defense was incredible.
  • Speaking of perimeter defense, Watts was the defensive anchor for MSU holding a handful of Hoosier guards (starters Phinisee and Durham, reserves Lander, Leal, and Galloway) to 0-for-14 shooting from the field during a combined 87 minutes of play. It’s an astonishing stat and speaks to the active and intense effort of the Spartan defenders.
  • Julius Marble struggled mightily. The big man accumulated more fouls (4) than points (3). Being a poor defender restricts the amount of time he sees the floor. He also tends to let his emotions negatively impact his production. Indiana power forward Trayce Jackson-Davis ate him up alive down on the block.
  • Malik Hall may have played the worst game of his Michigan State career. His stat line was atrocious — 0 points, 0 rebounds and two turnovers. He came out of the gate with no energy. Thomas Kithier was much better in relief of Hall. Kithier was by no means phenomenal but he proved to be an upgrade over Hall on this given day.
  • Marcus Bingham Jr. quietly played a fantastic ballgame. He shot 80 percent from the field on the way to a very productive eight-point, five-rebound performance. He stepped in and made up for the shortcomings of Marble and Joey Hauser (who had a subpar four-point, three-turnover game).
  • Aaron Henry was elite. He played at an NBA lottery pick-level. He worked his way inside of the 3-point line with dribble penetration to draw fouls and sink clutch baskets throughout the contest on his way to scoring 27 points. More impressive than his 27-point outburst was his effectiveness as Michigan State’s four man in the small-ball lineup that sparked a second half run to put the game out of reach for Indiana. He outplayed Hoosier forward Race Thompson down the stretch in a major way.
  • The wings were superb. Joshua Langford and Gabe Brown scored 14 points apiece. They joined forces to bury five total threes. Henry was spectacular but the complimentary play of his running mates helped carry the Spartans to victory.