When: February 2nd, 2019, 6:00 PM EST
Where: Breslin Center, East Lansing, Michigan
How to Watch: ESPN (Dan Schulman, Jay Bilas, and Mariah Taylor)
Now in the midst of a seven-game losing streak, the Indiana Hoosiers (12-9, 3-7) will have one of the toughest tasks of the season, traveling to East Lansing to face the #6 ranked Michigan State Spartans (18-3, 9-1). Indiana needs a confidence boosting win to turn their season around but facing the Spartans on the road will be an uphill battle for a Hoosier team coming off a disappointing defeat at Rutgers.
Michigan State has been arguably the best team in the Big Ten thus far this season, though the loss of their third leading scorer, Joshua Langford, for the rest of the season could affect their strong play. The Hoosiers will need to put together their best game of the season if they hope to upset the Spartans on the road.
When analyzing the Spartans, two names immediately jump off the page to you, and those are the junior duo of Cassius Winston and Nick Ward. Winston is the leading scorer and assist man for Michigan State on the season, and he has placed himself in contention for Big Ten player of the year honors. Winston is currently averaging 18.5 points per game, good for fourth in the conference, along with 7.3 assists per game, the top mark in the Big Ten. Winston also boasts the 2nd best 3-point field goal percentage in the Big Ten, a worrying statistic for an Indiana team that can struggle to contain shooters.
Ward is the other key piece to the Spartans machine, and the big man is having his best season of his career. Ward is currently averaging 15.6 points and 6.9 rebounds per game on the season and possesses one of the best post-games in the Big Ten. The Spartans will almost assuredly attack Indiana down low all-game long, as Indiana has had trouble guarding bigger post players all-season long. It will be crucial that Juwan Morgan avoids foul trouble while guarding the bigger Ward; Indiana can’t afford for him to be on the bench for long stretches of the game.
Joining Winston in the backcourt will be senior guard Matt McQuaid most known for his excellent shooting ability. McQuaid is a 41% shooter from behind the arc, and Indiana will always need to stay attached to him. Rounding out the Wings for the Spartans will be freshmen forward Aaron Henry, who has stepped into Langford’s spot. Henry is currently averaging 5.1 points per game, but he is currently making 70.6% of his two-point attempts, the top mark in the Big Ten this season. The final piece to the Michigan State starting five will be forward Kenny Goins. Goins is one of the best rebounders in the Big Ten, currently averaging 9.4 per game along with 7.0 points on the season.
The Spartans team statistics are arguably the most impressive part of their success to date. Michigan State currently boasts the top marks in the conference in both defensive effective field goal percentage and offensive effective field goal percentage. Even more worrying, the Spartans possess the league’s best offensive rebounding percentage, an area the Hoosiers have routinely struggled to keep under control.
Traveling to East Lansing, which will host ESPN’s College Gameday, will be a huge test for the Hoosiers, and one that Indiana doesn’t appear ready to face. It will be crucial that Indiana keeps Michigan State off the glass, and they must avoid foul trouble at all costs. Most importantly, Indiana must raise their intensity level to match what will surely be a raucous Breslin Center crowd. Indiana will need to show signs of life after this prolonged slump, and their resiliency, a trait they’ve failed to display as of late, will surely be tested.