Coming off the second ever home loss to the Indiana Hoosiers during the Tom Izzo era, there was no way the Michigan State Spartans wouldn’t come into Bloomington and get revenge in a much needed game for the Spartans’ Big Ten Conference Championship chances.
However it looks like Justin Smith didn’t get that memo.
The sophomore forward scored a career-high 24 points, including 3 three-pointers, as the Hoosiers once again stunned the Spartans, this time 63-62 to give IU its second straight win over a ranked opponent as well as the season sweep against Michigan State.
“Attitude is everything,” said Indiana Head Coach Archie Miller when explaining how Smith broke out against the Spartans. “When your attitude is great and you’re focused in on just doing whatever you can to help, good things tend to happen, and I think that’s where Justin really changed his mindset.”
A lightning rod for criticism this entire season, Smith single-handedly shouldered a floundering first half offense that saw players other than Smith hit just 4-of-19 (21.1%) on field goal attempts while he scored 16 points on 6-of-10 shooting. It would end up keeping the Hoosiers in the game long enough for his teammates to get going as a combination of clutch shooting and fantastic defense helped Indiana [15-14 (6-12)] overcome an 11-point second half deficit.
What’s even more impressive is that most of that clutch second half shooting came from fellow “fall guy” Devonte Green.
Known for being consistently inconsistent, Green played a vital role in the second half comeback scoring 11 of his 13 points after halftime and hit two momentum-shifting threes during the final six minutes.
The first one ended a quick 5-0 Michigan State run that had turned a one-possession game into a three-possession game, while the second one occurred with four minutes left and started the final 7-0 run that ended the game.
“When he’s engaged, he’s as talented of a guy as you can have,” said Miller about Green. “When he’s not engaged, obviously he’s like everyone else, it sticks out. I think he was engaged today, made some plays. Devonte hit some really big shots for us in the game to keep us hanging around.”
That 7-0 run spanned the final 4:13, as the Spartans never scored again after a Matt McQuaid jumper. The Hoosiers would finally tie the game on a put back layup from Juwan Morgan, who finished with 7 points and 11 rebounds, and also drew a foul on the basket which led to the go-ahead free throw.
Cassius Winston had an exceptional game for Michigan State [23-6 (14-4)], scoring 20 points on 8-of-12 shooting and also dishing out 11 assists. However, one of his four missed shots came at the worst possible time as his potential game winner with less than eight seconds left was expertly defended by Rob Phinisee.
During a season where the longer it goes the less sense it makes, it’s only fitting that the two most controversial players on the team came to IU’s rescue with the season on the line. Now, as if things couldn’t get more confusing, the Hoosiers find themselves somehow back on the bubble thanks to now having seven Quadrant 1 wins, which are the most prestigious types of wins on an NCAA Tournament resume.
The Hoosiers still need to win their last two regular season games (at Illinois, vs Rutgers), but after two months of disappointment, hope is finally here now that it is March.