Keith Appling’s foul with a little more than five minutes left proved to be Michigan State’s eventual undoing. However, Sunday’s 75-70 loss to Indiana should go down as one of the more entertaining Spartan basketball games in years.
The pace and level of play for both teams was at a season high. To me, it may have been MSU’s most watchable and best-played performance since the 2009 Final Four semifinal win over Connecticut. It appeared clear that both the Spartans and Hoosiers are deserving of the talk of reaching that level this season.
I got into a back-and-forth with a reader on Twitter about whether Appling should have picked up his fifth foul or let Victor Oladipo go in for an uncontested dunk. He said you can’t allow an easy basket. I contend it was a dumb play, and one that I think eventually cost MSU the game.
There’s zero question that MSU’s point guard, newly appointed captain and late-game leader needed to be on the court for the final minutes. He’s proven time and again this season that he becomes the Spartans’ go-to producer in crunch time (Kansas, Boise State, Louisiana-Lafayette and Ohio State come to mind in a flash). Can’t do that from the bench.
While in theory the reader’s point about a potential dunk swaying crowd momentum is true, a foul at that point in the game can’t come from a player with four already. It resulted in about a 6- to 8-point swing in the game. And it also left Adreian Payne out to dry on the final play, forced to take the ball from well outside the lane and drive to the basket, getting called for a charging foul that sealed the win for the Hoosiers.
That instead should have been Appling going to the basket. Instead, he relegated himself to spectator status and perhaps cost the Spartans a chance to jump into the top five of this week’s polls that come out later today.
On the women’s side, Suzy Merchant can’t be too happy today for letting a second straight game this week slip away.
Sunday at home, the Spartans lost 67-62 in overtime to Purdue. Her Spartans launched 82 shots – yes, that number is correct – and connected on just over 30 percent of them. Many of those misses came around the basket as Jasmine Hines, Klarissa Bell and Jasmine Thomas combined to 8 of 36 shooting.
MSU still had a chance to win, though, thanks in large part to committing just six turnovers while forcing the Boilermakers into 21. But Purdue’s inside presence proved too much, outscoring the Spartans 36-22 and outrebounding them 45-43.
And in hockey, MSU’s struggles continued in a weekend split with Division I newcomer Penn State. The high from Friday’s 5-2 victory and offensive breakout quickly dissipated with Saturday’s 3-2 loss and defensive meltdown.
Two games with Michigan are on the horizon for MSU, Friday in Ann Arbor and Saturday in Detroit. With 10 games left in the regular season, it’s looking like neither the Spartans nor the Wolverines are going to make the NCAA Tournament. They’ll likely need to win the final CCHA Tournament to get the league’s automatic berth – no easy task for two teams buried at the bottom of the league standings.