Hoosiers takes an early lead, Michigan St. comeback falls short
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (AP) -- Indiana Hoosiers guard James Blackmon Jr. took matters into his own hands Saturday.
Rather than explaining how to play a crucial game short-handed, Blackmon put together an instructional tape. The junior matched his career high with 33 points, had four rebounds and led the Hoosiers past Michigan State 82-75.
"I feel like everyone we all covered each other's backs today," Blackmon said. "If someone was in the wrong spot, someone else was picking it up for them."
When the ball got to Blackmon's hands, though, it seemed he could do no wrong. The Hoosiers' top scorer finished 11 of 16 from the field, 6 of 10 on 3-pointers and had only two turnovers in 36 minutes.
His teammates got the message. Robert Johnson scored 17 points and Thomas Bryant added 11 points and six rebounds as Indiana (14-6, 4-3 Big Ten) snapped a five-game losing streak in the series. The defending Big Ten champs have now won four of five and find themselves back in the title hunt despite another rash of injuries .
Indiana was missing forwards Collin Hartman, who had knee surgery in September and has not yet played this season; OG Anunoby, who is scheduled to have season-ending surgery on his right knee after getting hurt Wednesday at Penn State; and Juwan Morgan, who missed his second straight game with an injured foot.
The Hoosiers didn't miss a beat, almost leading wire to wire.
"I do know this, that sometimes a team when you have an injury, you play better that next game but then sometimes they catch up with you," Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said. "That's what Tom has to look out for."
Eron Harris finished with 21 points and Nick Ward added 15 to lead the Spartans (12-8, 4-3), who made it interesting late.
They just couldn't get in sync because of Blackmon's scoring barrage.
He scored 10 points in an early 14-2 run, helped the Hoosiers extend their lead to 44-30 at halftime and started another 3-point flurry early in the second half that gave Indiana a 59-39 lead with 15:20 left.
Then Harris led the Spartans back. His two free throws with 10:54 to go cut the deficit to 61-51. His 3-pointer with 6:47 remaining made it 67-61. And with 32 seconds left, Harris took another 3 that could have made it a three-point game.
Instead, it was off the mark, Bryant grabbed the rebound and Indiana closed out the win at the free-throw line.
"We've been getting better," Crean said. "We're getting better, and we've got a lot of room to get better."
Michigan State: Less than two weeks ago, it appeared the Spartans were back on track. But after winning three in a row, Michigan State has lost three of its last four -- three straight on the road -- and still needs to find some answers.
Indiana: The resurgent Hoosiers took a big step with this win. They are now over .500 in conference play for the first time this season and got their biggest win since upsetting then No. 3 North Carolina in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge on Nov. 30.
Miles Bridges finished with 13 points and 10 rebounds for Michigan State, which gave up 23 points off 12 turnovers.
Indiana was 11 of 24 on 3-pointers and had a season-low nine turnovers. Crean also said he was hopeful Morgan would return next week.
Izzo wasn't just impressed with Blackmon. He was impressed with the whole Indiana offense, especially in the first half when they scored 44 points on what is usually one of the nation's top defenses.
"This game was won and lost by the guards who just drove it and kicked it and made shot after shot after shot," Izzo said. "I mean that first half, it was impressive. If I were an IU fan, I would have been excited. It was almost impressive for me to watch."
Michigan State: Returns home to face Purdue on Tuesday.
Indiana: Plays three of its next four on the road, starting with Thursday's trip to Michigan.