Know Thy Enemy: Hoosiers headed in right direction as of late
No. 9 MSU and Indiana have been trending in opposite directions as of late.
The Spartans have dropped two of their last three games, including a double-digit loss on their home floor to rival University of Michigan, causing them to drop to No. 4 in the Big Ten standings.
While the Spartans have been trending down in recent weeks, the Hoosiers are trending up.
Indiana is on a three-game winning streak and is currently tied with MSU in the conference rankings.
With this, The State News caught up with Jake Thomer, men's basketball beat reporter for the Indiana Student Daily, Indiana's student publication, and asked him if he thinks the Hoosiers can continue their stellar play against the Spartans.
Here's what he had to say:
Q: Looking at the stat sheet, Juwan Morgan is a name that immediately sticks out. He's leading the Hoosiers in scoring and rebounding, but what other guys on this team have been really consistent throughout the season and have contributed to the team being 4-2 in the Big Ten?
A: You look at a guy like Robert Johnson, senior point guard, he's really been inconsistent this season but in terms of just the past few games and the Big Ten schedule in particular he's definitely been one of the consistent forces. He had a career-high against Minnesota recently, and he's been shooting the ball a lot better, playing better defense, and cutting down on turnovers, which really the whole team has been in the last few games, but one guy in particular who's embodied that re-emergence has definitely been Rob Johnson.
Q: Freshman forward Justin Smith has had some up-and-down games since being inserted into the starting lineup due to De'Ron Davis's Achilles injury. How do think he has handled the role change and can he be consistent going forward?
A: I was really surprised that he stepped up right away--he had 20 points against Minnesota in that win also on the road. But then the very next game he came out and only played six minutes because he got into foul trouble, so that's kind of going to be the fine line that Archie Miller has to balance with him. The confidence really seems to be there. He struggles with turnovers a little bit, too, but for a big man he's really quick down low which helps their defense right now. I think him and Juwan Morgan playing together, they've been a lot quicker on defense than they were with De'Ron Davis in there. So, I would say confidence and quickness are his two biggest traits, for a freshman especially.
Q: I read a column on the Indiana Student Daily's website about how the Hoosiers have finally turned the corner due to their good defensive play recently. On Sunday, they held Northwestern to shooting just 26.8 percent and forced the Wildcats to commit 17 turnovers, so what are the Hoosier's chances of duplicating that type of defensive performance against MSU?
A: Well, that'll be tougher obviously because it's a road game, also Michigan State is definitely more efficient on offense. If you had seen what I saw against Northwestern the other day, it was more so I think them shooting themselves in the foot than IU really locking down in my opinion. But it has been an overall trend of slightly improved defense I'd say. It's going to be tough though because just with Michigan States' size, with guys like Ward, Bridges, Jackson, IU really doesn't have anyone to contend with that. Northwestern is not a very big team, especially compared to Michigan State. The guys are playing confident at IU right now so I guess that's half the battle but on paper you look at it and it seems like Michigan State is set up to not have many problems with IU's defense.
Score prediction and why:
A: I'm going to go Michigan State 80, IU 66. I think Michigan State, they're hurting a little bit right now, lost two of three, lost that home rivalry game to Michigan. They're going to look to clamp down on IU. IU has not won in there I think also. It's always tough when the Hoosiers go to the Breslin Center so I don't see much of a possibility for IU to pick up a road win here but I also think Michigan State is going to be looking to bounce back and get some revenge.