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Michigan State basketball: Small details helped Spartans beat Indiana State

Just an all-around great win.

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Michigan State basketball
© Dale Young-USA TODAY Sports

The small details helped Michigan State basketball take down a really good Indiana State team on Saturday afternoon.

What a way to close out 2023 for Michigan State basketball. Things were looking extremely sketchy, to say the least in the second half, with Indiana State getting up by five points. But the Spartans didn’t quit and pulled out a massive 87-75 win over the Sycamores.

How did MSU get it done? It’s easy to look at the amazing games from Malik Hall and AJ Hoggard and point to them being the reason we won. No doubt we wouldn’t have won without them. But it was all the small things that MSU did well, that we have struggled with most of the season, that led to this win Saturday afternoon.

Rebounding margin

Heading into this game, Michigan State was only out-rebounding its opponents on average by one rebound per game. That is not good enough, especially as it heads into Big Ten play.

Tom Izzo has been preaching that our rebounding needs to be better, and yesterday it was very good. Michigan State out-rebounded Indiana State 41-27 Saturday afternoon. Included in that are 14 offensive rebounds (compared to Indiana State’s eight) leading to 21 second-chance points. A +14 rebounding margin is outstanding against anyone as well as 21 second-chance points. Without those two dominating stats, this game likely is a lot closer and would’ve been anyone’s game at the end.

Free throws

MSU has been a solid free throw shooting team this year, but you need to be excellent in games like this if you want to win. Saturday afternoon, the Spartans were excellent. As a team, they shot 23-for-27 (85 percent) from the charity stripe compared to 11-for-17 (65 percent) for Indiana State — 20 percent better and 12 more makes is one huge reason why we won this game.

Funny enough, that 12-point difference from the free throw line equals MSU’s margin of victory in this game. This by no means is the sole reason we won, but I’d argue it’s as big as any other reason. Free throws are the one thing you have complete control over. Nobody’s guarding you, the clock isn’t running and you can take your time. You need to dominate from the free throw line in tight games, especially as the home team.

And that’s exactly what we did yesterday.

Mental toughness

This team’s mental toughness has been questioned all season, and rightfully so. We could’ve beaten teams like Duke or Arizona if we would’ve closed the games out, but we failed to. In both games, MSU stormed back in the second half only to fold late and lose. Not in this game, however.

Michigan State first showed their mental toughness by starting the game well. Slow starts have been another problem this year for us, but that wasn’t the case in this game. MSU played well from the jump and took a 10-point lead into the half.

Unfortunately, Michigan State basketball started slow in the second half, but that had more to do with elite shot-making from Indiana State than anything we did poorly. The Sycamores took a five-point lead but we ultimately stormed back like we typically do. This, however, is where the Spartans normally fold and lose heartbreakingly. But not this time. MSU didn’t let up and ended up pulling away to a resounding 12-point win.

MSU now extends its winning streak to four as Big Ten play resumes this week. Their next game is against Penn State this Thursday at the Breslin Center as the Spartans look to get their first conference win of the season.

Lead writer for Spartan Shadows since April 2023, writing over 450 articles. Michigan State basketball, football and recruiting expert. Class of 2019 graduate from Michigan State University specializing in Sports Management. Daily MSU runs a popular X page (@daily_msu) covering all things MSU Sports.

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