BLOOMINGTON -- Indiana coach Archie Miller hoped to build a team that could hang its hat on defense before the season began.
But in another winnable game Saturday, the Hoosiers had their defense betray them in the second half of a numbing 78-71 loss to Michigan State at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall.
Indiana (12-10, 7-8 Big Ten) was rolling, up 19-6 early by forcing seven turnovers in the game’s first seven minutes. But the Hoosiers allowed that lead to dwindle to 30-26 at halftime. Then, after IU built its lead back to 10 points early in the second half, Aaron Henry caught fire for Michigan State, and the Hoosiers had no answers to stop him.
Henry, a former Ben Davis standout, scored 16 of his 27 points in the second half. Indiana defenders bit on every shot fake from the 6-foot-6 Henry, who got into the lane at will. He put Michigan State ahead to stay 54-52 on a runner in the lane, then Gabe Brown followed with a 3-pointer to extend Michigan State’s lead to 57-52 with 7:56 remaining, capping an 8-0 Spartans run.
Michigan State scored 52 points in the second half, shooting 56.7% overall and 55.6% from 3-point range in the game’s final 20 minutes.
“I really look at the second half as being a complete bust on defense,” Miller said. “Very disappointing to give up 52 after you only gave up 26 in the first half.”
IU didn’t make matters any better by turning the ball over seven times in the second half, which allowed Michigan State to get out in transition. Michigan State scored 12 points off turnovers in the second half. At one point, IU was outscoring Michigan State 17-0 in points off turnovers, but that margin evened out to 17-12 by the end of the game.
“As the course of the half went along, there were just too many errors,” Miller said. “Either very timely or costly turnovers or just defensively, some breakdowns, whether it’s transition rebounding or guarding the ball screen, whatever it may be. I think we let Michigan State continue to build confidence throughout the game, as they hung around.”
Offensively, Indiana wasted a career-high 34 points from sophomore Trayce Jackson-Davis due to a poor shooting day from the perimeter. After going 7-of-12 earlier from 3-point range in its win earlier in the week against Minnesota, Indiana went 4-of-19 against the Spartans, with a few of the misses being air-balls. Sophomore guard Armaan Franklin (3-of-6) made three of IU’s four 3-pointers, with the rest of the team going a combined 1-of-13.
“We played inside-out and when the ball came out, epically in the first half, we missed some open ones,” Miller said. “In the second half, it came down to our inability to capitalize in transition and also capitalize on the inside-out game.”
Michigan State chose not to double Jackson-Davis in the post, and the 6-9, 245-pound center took advantage, scoring 10 of IU’s first 19 points. He capped a 14-point half with an alley-oop dunk with 38 seconds left that put the Hoosiers up 30-26. In 37 minutes, Jackson-Davis went 11-of-18 from the field and 12-of-16 from the foul line.
“By watching other bigs play in the league, they don’t really help that much inside,” Jackson-Davis said. “So I don’t think it was more of letting me get mine, but more so that they don’t really help on bigs.”
Defensively, Jackson-Davis said IU’s breakdowns were a result of not being sound in their rotations.
“A few times in our rotations, we are supposed to be in the gap already,” Jackson-Davis said. “We are not supposed to run into the gap. So we are running into the gap, and that was allowing them to dish it to the corners, and we would have to run back out for 3s. That really killed us.”
The loss continued another two steps forward, one step back season for the Hoosiers, who haven’t won or lost two in a row all season. Michigan State (11-9, 5-9) entered the game losing six of its last eight before pulling out the road win. Indiana, meanwhile, dropped to 6-5 at home.
“We did not control either end in the second half,” Miller said. “It’s a hard one to take.”