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Sparty sends IU to first loss, Purdue and Ohio State win as well

Indiana at Michigan State

For a minute there, it seemed like the Indiana juggernaut would keep on rolling along. With just over 11 minutes remaining in Wednesday night's Indiana vs. Michigan State showdown, Christian Watford canned a three-pointer to make the score 54-45 in favor of the Hoosiers. Could the improbably undefeated season continue?

It turns out that it could not. Michigan State immediately started on a 20-0 run that completely turned the tables on IU and put the game out of reach. The result was a final score of 80-65 that made it seem as though the outcome was never in doubt, but that was hardly the case.

In the early going, it certainly seemed like an 80-65 game. Michigan State went up 34-16 in the first 15 minutes, but Indiana fought back with a 9-0 run to end the first half. That was mostly thanks to two straight three-pointers from Matt Roth, who would finish the game with just those 6 points.

The Hoosier onslaught continued in the second half. They rolled off 12 unanswered points in the first five minutes in a run that was highlighted by Cody Zeller's only 4 points of the evening. MSU recovered for a bit and was able to tie the game at 43, but then came another 11-2 Indiana run that ended with the Watford three-pointer. Keith Appling got the points right back with and an-one layup that served to jump start Sparty's game-sealing deluge of scoring.

To summarize, this, like most other basketball games was a "game of runs." In between, there were some outstanding performances to speak of. Appling poured in a season-high 25 points on 7 of 12 shooting while adding 7 assists and 6 rebounds. He's looking like the real deal to lead Sparty from the point guard position. Draymond Green did his jack-of-all-trades thing again with 11 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists and 2 blocks.

Perhaps most impressive, though was MSU's ability to keep Cody Zeller away from the ball. The Only Colors does a good job praising the efforts of Derrick Nix and Adreian Payne:

Indiana freshman star Cody Zeller was almost a complete non-factor this game and Nix and Payne can take much of the credit. He had only 4 points, none in the first half and pulled down only 3 boards. There was a lot of talk after the game about MSU being "physical" with Zeller and "muscling" him in the paint. That was certainly a factor but mainly Indiana just couldn't get him the ball and when they did, he was not getting it deep with a chance to do any damage. On the offensive end Nix/Payne provided the only option that was working when the shooting went south in the second half. They clearly exposed Indiana's weaknesses on the interior and were a crucial part of MSU staying in this game. Nix finished with 14 points and 5 boards while Payne chipped in 8 and 2 in 15 minutes of action. And who can forget Nix leading the fast break after a nifty steal?

You can check out Nix's amazing fast break as well as the rest of the game's best Gus Johnson moments, by clicking this link. Great job by BTN for putting all the Gus highlights in one convenient place.

On the Indiana side of the ledger, it was mostly Christian Watford and a lot of bad news. The versatile scoring forward was 4 of 6 from beyond the arc and finished with 26 points and 10 rebounds. Victor Oladipo pitched in with 13 points, 6 rebounds and 2 blocks, while Verdell Jones III added 11 points on 5 of 10 shooting. Jordan Hulls led Indiana with 5 assists, but was only 2 of 10 from the field.

The Crimson Quarry's John M notes that it's a good sign that IU was able to not get blown out in the rebounding department.

The up and down nature of the game makes it tough to assign much meaning to the box score. For a 15 minute stretch, I don't think it's an exaggeration to say that IU played its best basketball of the Crean era. For the other 25 minutes, the Hoosiers looked pretty helpless. If there was a pleasant surprise, it's that IU held its own on the boards at both ends of the court. These are my numbers, because Pomeroy isn't updated yet, but by my calculation IU had an offensive rebound percentage of about 34 percent compared to 30 percent for Michigan State. Of course, this was of limited value in this game, because the Spartans shot a better-than-usual 54 percent, compared to 42 percent for IU. MSU was a beastly 62 percent on two point attempts, with Derrick Nix's 6-9 off the bench the biggest factor. The Spartans also excelled at the line, particularly Keith Appling, who shot 9-10 there.

It was a great win for Michigan State on Wednesday night, as they got their conference schedule off to a winning start and are still undefeated since dropping the first two games of the season to ACC titans North Carolina and Duke.

Indiana, on the other hand, shouldn't get too upset. For one, they still have the win over Kentucky to use to turn away naysayers. They also have a full slate of Big Ten home games to look forward to. IU hosts Ohio State on Saturday, so there is no time to sulk about this loss. There is a big chunk of great looking Indiana basketball in the middle of the game tape that should give the Hoosiers confidence heading into this weekend.

Purdue at Iowa

Yes, there was a pair of other Big Ten games going on Wednesday night, but neither had the excitement, intrigue or Gus Johnson outbursts of the MSU vs. IU game. Still, Iowa gave Purdue quite a game thanks to Roy Devyn Marble, Matt Gatens and Melsahn Basabe. The senior Gatens and sophomore Marble accounted for 11 of Iowa's 15 assists and each posted double figures in points. Basabe put in 14 points on 6 of 8 shooting with 8 rebounds and 2 blocks. He's also just a sophomore and has game-changing athleticism to go with a developing jump shot.

However, Purdue pulled off the 76-73 victory and never trailed during the second half. Robbie Hummell had 16 points and a season-high 11 rebounds. He was helped by Kelsey Barlow and D.J. Byrd, who scored 12 and 14 points, respectively. Over at Hammer and Rails, they are taking nothing for granted.

All told, the numbers tell a pretty good story. We equaled a bigger team in rebounding. We took care of the basketball. We shot 50% from the field and 30% from long range. We shared the ball with 11 assists. Most importantly, we got the win. You take those on the road in the Big Ten any way you can get them.

H&R is right not to read too much into Purdue not destroying Iowa. There is more than enough talent at Iowa to spring them for a couple of home upsets of NCAA Tournament teams. The Boilers should feel fortunate that they got out of Iowa City with a win.

Meanwhile, Black Heart Gold Pants sees some things to build on as well as some things to work on for Iowa. A good sign was Iowa's dominance at the free throw line, which BHGP says is more due to a difference in strategy than to the officials.

Purdue fans will point to Iowa's 29 free throws (to Purdue's 11) as a sign of obvious home cooking, but I didn't see it that way. Iowa was accommodating enough to allow Purdue to get shots off at the rim cleanly and without interference; Purdue, on the other hand, chose to foul. Which is their way. Matt Painter must watch a lot of Celtics games, because the Boilermakers have learned the Garnett/Perkins/Pierce trick of never passing up an opportunity to give their opponents an extraneous shove, grab or push. When Purdue plays at home and those calls are ignored, it's a devastating strategy, but on the road, well, sometimes you give up 18 more free throw attempts.

Northwestern at Ohio State

Finally we get to the Ohio State game, where it looks as though the Bucks are as good as ever. They dominated Northwestern on Wednesday afternoon in an 87-54 victory that wasn't close for very long. Ohio State crushed Northwestern on the boards, 14 offensive rebounds to 5; they shot 11 more free throws (30 to 19), turned the ball over 2 times less (11 to 9) and shot 48% to Northwestern's 32%. It was a butt kicking.

William Buford had 28 points on 5 of 7 three-point shooting to go with 9 rebounds. Jared Sullinger put in 17 points and 14 rebounds. For Northwestern, it was pretty ugly. John Shurna needed 18 field goal attempts just to score 11 points, so Drew Crawford had to lead the Wildcats in scoring with 13 points on 4 of 12 shooting. Yucky. At least freshman Dave Sobolewski had a nice game, throwing in 10 points and 5 assists.

No one expected Northwestern to win this game, especially it being in Columbus, but Sippin' on Purple's Loretta wanted to see a much better effort.

Ohio State with Jared Sullinger is the best team in the country, and they were playing at home. Losing to them is perfectly understandable, especially when your top two scorers both have cold shooting nights. However, the last ten minutes of tonight have left a bad taste in my mouth. Ultimately, a one point loss counts the same in the standings as a blowout loss, but I'm more than a bit discouraged going forward by the way Northwestern laid down at the end of the game tonight.

The good news is that with non-conference wins over Seton Hall and LSU, Northwestern still has a decent chance at a tourney run, provided they can scrape themselves off the Value City Arena floor and get a win versus Penn State this Sunday night.

Speaking of Penn State, the Nittany Lions open up their Big Ten schedule with a trip to Ann Arbor to take on Michigan tonight. Game starts at 7:30 PM EST and will be broadcast on BTN.