Michigan State responded from its first conference loss of the season with a home win against Wisconsin.
Now, the No. 11 Spartans return to the road Thursday to face an Indiana team that is gaining confidence.
Michigan State (14-4, 6-1 Big Ten) remains atop the Big Ten standings, but after that 67-55 home win against the Badgers on Friday, head coach Tom Izzo still sees room for improvement as the Spartans head into a tougher stretch of their schedule. Michigan State will play three of its next four games on the road.
Izzo was disappointed that his team let a 25-point, second half lead dwindle to 12 points in the closing minutes. The feeling didn’t fade, even after a victory was secured.
“We’re not going to win games like that on the road,” Izzo said. “If you want to win, if you want to really compete for this championship, we have to figure out how somebody on the court has to grab the bull by the horns and change some things.”
One player capable of stepping up is senior point guard Cassius Winston, who set the Big Ten’s all-time assist record after finishing with six points and four assists in the win over Wisconsin. With 817 career assists, Winston passed former Spartans point guard Mateen Cleaves, who presented him a ceremonial ball recognizing the achievement following the game.
“When you come in you want to win games and have a chance to play at the next level, and it’s as simple as that,” Winston said. “All of this stuff, the assist record and the team, it is beyond me and I am just happy. I put my time in and put my work in, and I’m just happy for the chance to be here in this situation.”
Indiana (14-4, 4-3 Big Ten) is coming off its first road victory of the season in four tries, winning 82-74 at Nebraska. The Hoosiers are 11-1 at home this season, with their lone loss at Assembly Hall coming against Arkansas on Dec. 29.
Protecting its home court will be important for Indiana this week. After Michigan State, the Hoosiers will play host to No. 17 Maryland on Sunday at Assembly Hall.
“It’s critical, especially in our league,” Indiana coach Archie Miller said. “Our league being what it is right now, how difficult it is to go on the road, you good shot to find a way to win home games. That’s not easy as well, it’s really not. But we have one of the best home courts in college basketball.”
The challenge for the Hoosiers will be stopping Winston, who leads the Spartans in scoring (18.1 points) and assists (6.1).
“It’s going to take five people to guard him and the ball screens that they run ,” Indiana’s Devonte Green said. “Everybody has to be locked in and doing their job in order for it to work.”
Indiana is led by freshman Trayce Jackson-Davis, the team leader in scoring (14.2) and rebounding (8.1). Jackson-Davis posted his sixth double-double of the season with 18 points and 13 rebounds in Indiana’s 82-74 win at Nebraska on Saturday.
–Field Level Media