Coming off a huge road win at Nebraska last week, the Hoosiers entered an even tougher road environment in East Lansing tonight. And it showed. The Hoosiers, who have had their way all season long on offense, looked to be shell shocked as everyone stood around waiting for someone to make a play to spark the team. Coach Crean, who typically doesn't take early timeouts, took one before the first media timeout which tells you all you need to know about the start of this game. Hanner Mosquera-Perea opened with two straight fouls and his replacement, Emmitt Holt, quickly picked up another. At the 9:28 mark of the first half, things got even worse as Gavin Schilling ran the floor and went up for a huge alley-oop dunk which caused Coach Crean to take yet another timeout so that he could "talk strongly" to Hanner Mosquera-Perea for the entire length of the timeout after the Hoosiers went down 19-4 to start.
So how bad did it get in the first half? Well, at halftime - Emmitt Holt was 2-2 from the field and Kevin Yogi Ferrell was 3-7. The rest of the team - well - they shot a cool 0-19. And if that isn't enough to tell you how the first half went, Indiana ended the half with 16 total rebounds. Michigan State had 12 rebounds on the offensive end alone and 29 in total. This all led to a 36-17 advantage for the Spartans at the half in what was already an insurmountable lead.
Twitter apparently decided they had seen enough of Hoosier basketball tonight as well as it basically shut down for the entire second half of this one. It was more of the same though as Indiana continued to struggle on the boards as well as shooting the ball. Coach Crean tried to send a clear message to Troy Williams by barely playing him in the second half, and it will be interesting to see if that message gets through for Ohio State on Saturday. Freshman sensation James Blackmon Jr shot 1-13 from the field, but did garner 6 rebounds which is more than you can say for the 0 points and 2 rebounds combined from Hanner Mosquera-Perea and Troy Williams. This one ended with a score of 70-50 as the Hoosiers shot 28.3% from the field and got out rebounded 50-28.
So what in the world did we learn in this blow-out loss to the Spartans?
The Hoosiers need a consistent Hanner Mosquera-Perea to be successful - This may be the understatement of the season. All of us in the media and all of Hoosier Nation for that matter have made a big deal about the lack of a proven big man on this Indiana team. At times during the non-conference season, you couldn't really tell any disadvantage existed as Indiana played a lot of small basketball teams. However, it showed in the Louisville game and it reared its ugly head to an even larger degree tonight. Perea played like an All-American in the second half of the Nebraska game last week, but went back to typical Hanner Perea tonight at Michigan State - playing with no energy or effort, looking lost on both ends of the court, and prone to fouling. He doesn't need to play like he did at Nebraska which was exceptional. He just needs to be consistent so the rest of the Hoosiers know what to expect. A consistent inside presence frees up the outside shooting which is what Indiana is going to live or die by - and when they don't get that consistency - tonight is what happens and will continue to happen.
While Indiana will live by the three all year - they will also die from it from time to time - The Hoosiers have enjoyed a very successful start to the 2014-2015 season and they have done it from behind the arc. They have shooters are over the court and the spacing has been great from the very first game. However, good shooting teams will have bad shooting nights and tonight was one of those for Indiana. The difference between most good shooting teams and Indiana is other teams have somewhere else to go when shots aren't falling. Indiana just doesn't have that. Troy Williams ability to slash to the basket has been good at times. Hanner Mosquera-Perea and Emmitt Holt have been good down low at times. But no one has been consistent besides the outside shooters. And when the shots didn't fall tonight - the Hoosiers had nothing to do but throw up more shots which also didn't fall. The Hoosiers shot 28.3% from the field and 20.8% from three - and without any other type of offense to fall back on - that just simply isn't going to get it done at this level.
It's going to be a very up and down year - The Hoosiers had a really bad night, but we all knew this was going to be an up and down year. This team is too young for that not to be the case. The Nebraska environment was tough, but tonight was the first real road environment that many of these players have ever played in during their lives. This team is going to win some games they have no business winning, and they are going to lose some games they have no business losing which is going to cause a roller coaster ride for Hoosier Nation's emotions - but you can't expect anything more or less of this team. At the end of the night - Indiana is 1-1 in the B1G Conference and 1-1 on the road. Remember the years in which they couldn't buy a win on the road? This team is better than that, even though that may be hard to believe if you were watching tonight.