Sunday, December 5, 2021

Hoosier country awaits struggling Hoops team

January 8, 2002
Sophomore center Jason Andreas, left, and sophomore forward Adam Wolfe fight for the ball with an Indiana Purdue-Fort Wayne player during their game in the Spartan Coca-Cola Classic. —

When No. 25 MSU and Indiana meet at 7 p.m in Bloomington, Ind., you can probably expect an exciting game.

The last two contests between the Spartans (9-5 overall, 0-1 Big Ten) and Hoosiers (9-5, 2-0) at Assembly Hall have gone down to the wire, with MSU ending up in the losers’ column each time.

During the 2000 National Championship campaign, ex-MSU guard Jason Richardson’s missed box-out of Lynn Washington led to a buzzer-beating put-back with 0.5 seconds left in the game. And last season the Hoosiers were up to their same buzzer-beating antics when Kirk Haston’s three-pointer with time expiring handed then-No. 1 MSU its first loss of the season.

MSU men’s basketball head coach Tom Izzo attributes the recent MSU-Indiana nail-biters to both schools’ traditions and winning expertise.

“I think this is where tradition maybe starts to play a little part (in these games),” Izzo said. “At times I think we’ve played well because of our tradition we’re starting to build, and I think they’ve got it there and that means you know how to win, you know how to compete.

“That was a big game down there (last year). We played well enough to win, we’re 10-up and they get some shots and then they get a heck of a shot at the end to win it.”

The Spartans better find a way to win tonight because they’re winless on the road.

If history stays true to form, the Spartans could have trouble. This season MSU has struggled to capitalize late in games away from Breslin Center.

Despite the heartbreakers, Izzo said his team still hasn’t shown a fear of the road.

“There’s no question we have a young team and a young team has more trouble winning on the road,” Izzo said. “But I have not seen yet, whether be it Florida, Virginia, Stanford or Minnesota, us get off to a terrible start because we’re panicking or looking like the crowd is intimidating us.”

More importantly than close encounters in games is the pursuit of a fifth-straight Big Ten title. MSU sophomore forward Adam Wolfe knows all too well how detrimental losses in Big Ten play are to the pursuit of a title.

“They are all must-wins in the Big Ten with the amount of parity and how equal all the teams are down the line,” Wolfe said. “I think every game is important and the game at Minnesota was a tough loss and we got to be prepared to take on Indiana.”

MSU freshman guard Chris Hill is coming off a career-high 25 points and could find himself again playing the lead role for the Spartans in the return to his home state.

With sophomore guard Marcus Taylor out with a back injury Saturday, Hill was responsible for 38 minutes of play. Those minutes will probably be cut because Izzo expects Taylor to return, but in what capacity is uncertain.

“I think he’s going to play, how much he’s going to play I really don’t know,” Izzo said. “I mean we plan on playing him a lot in that game and I think we really need him back.”

Hill is excited to return to the Hoosier state, but said a win is even more important than home-state pride.

“I’m looking forward to (playing Indiana) because I’m definitely very excited to play that game,” Hill said. “But at the same time, dropping the (Minnesota) game makes this game even more important. To go 0-2 in the Big Ten would be a huge, huge blow to us so we have to be able to come back from (Saturday’s loss) and get one down there.”


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