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No. 16 Michigan State beats No. 13 Indiana

December 29, 2011
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EAST LANSING, Mich.—Tom Crean knew his Indiana team would have to grow up quickly once Big Ten play started. The 13th-ranked Hoosiers found out that one huge rally on the road against a team like No. 16 Michigan State isn't always enough.

Keith Appling scored a career-high 25 points and sparked a 20-0 second-half surge to help the Spartans hand the Hoosiers their first loss of the season, 80-65 on Wednesday night.

"When you have a young team and the bullets start flying, you've got to be ready," Crean said. "It was a very physical game. And we didn't get to the foul line enough. But I still believe we can be pretty good."

Christian Watford had 26 points and 10 rebounds for the Hoosiers (12-1, 0-1), who overcame an 18-point first-half deficit with a 25-2 blitz, only to see Michigan State dig out of a 54-45 hole.

"That's how Big Ten basketball is," Watford said. "I knew that coming in, being a veteran, so I was prepared for it. It was a learning process for us more than anything. We didn't do what it took tonight and didn't get enough defense to stop them."

Appling, who had 18 points in the second half, had seven assists, six rebounds and played some snug defense for the Spartans (12-2, 1-0 Big Ten).

"I've always been able to stop a man on defense," Appling said. "That's one of those things that's God-given. On offense, Coach has been telling me all week in practice, `You need to shoot the ball more.'"

Derrick Nix had 14 points and Brandon Wood and Draymond Green each added 13 for Michigan State, which shot 54.7 percent from the field and had a 17-5 edge at the free throw line.

"We got a lot of basketball out of a lot of players," Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said after the Spartans' 12th straight win in a game of wild swings. "I thought Keith did a great job of pushing the ball. And he came back strong when he really needed to."

Cody Zeller and Jordan Hulls, key cogs in Indiana's best start since 1976, each managed just four points as the Hoosiers shot 42.2 percent from the field and got outrun in transition.

"We just didn't execute," Hulls said after a 2-for-10 shooting effort and four turnovers. "They're a good team. We knew that coming in here. They knew a lot of our plays, it seemed. We've just got to execute better, make harder cuts and move the ball more."

The Spartans led by 18 points, then trailed by nine before Appling took over, starting the decisive run with a scoop and a free throw. He added another three-point play on a steal, a stumbling layup and a foul shot, then fed Adreian Payne for an alley-oop slam.

Payne had all eight of his points in that critical stretch, while Brandon Dawson was hot early with seven points. When the Hoosiers cooled off from 3-point range, going 2 for 11 in the second half, Michigan State made its move.

The Spartans had nine steals and a season-low nine turnovers, fueling a student-less crowd that ranked with the best in recent years in Breslin Center, as Izzone alumni came from all parts of the country to make a difference.

"I'd say our crowd was worth a lot of points tonight," Izzo said. "They flew in from all over to be here. But as Draymond said after the game, we can't let a team come back like that or we're not going to win on the road."

Michigan State held a 33-31 rebound edge, forced 13 turnovers and shot 77.3 percent at the free throw line, correcting a season-long concern.

The Spartans took a 13-4 lead, capped by six straight points from Nix. They doubled that margin when seven straight points from Wood, four from Green and a 3 from Appling made it 34-16 with 5:11 left in the first half.

"Zeller didn't back down," Nix said. "I'm bigger than he is. And I think I worked a little harder than he did. But I wouldn't say I pushed him around. All he did was battle."

For the rest of the period and the first 9 minutes of the second half, it was all Hoosiers. They quickly chopped the lead in half when Matt Roth made two 3s and Watford hit from long range. Another five points from Victor Oladipo and Watford cut the deficit to 34-29 before Appling ended the half with a layup.

Indiana went on another 12-0 run to start the second half and went up 41-36 behind six points from Oladipo and Zeller's first two baskets of the game. And after Michigan State tied it at 43, the Hoosiers grabbed their biggest lead of the game on a 3 from Watford.

"There were a lot of tough lessons in a very tough atmosphere against a very good team," Crean said. "We've got to go home and make corrections. But this epitomized a game of runs. We were on the bottom, where we haven't been much this year."

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