EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) – Michigan State missed chances to beat a top-ranked team without anyone playing defense.
Tom Izzo, though, refused to blame his team’s woes at the free throw line for helping No. 1 Indiana beat the fourth-ranked Spartans 72-68 Tuesday night.
“Games aren’t lost with free throws at the end,” Izzo said.
This one was won by Victor Oladipo. Oladipo’s go-ahead putback, dunk and free throws in the final minute gave him 19 points to go along with nine rebounds, five steals and a block.
“Oladipo is just a refuse-to-lose guy,” Izzo said. “Winning time, he made the plays.”
Indiana (24-3, 12-2 Big Ten) broke a first-place tie in the conference – with four games left in the regular season – and moved a step closer toward earning top seeding next month in the NCAA tournament. The Hoosiers had lost 17 straight – since 1991 – on the road against the Spartans.
“Most of those guys weren’t alive,” Indiana coach Tom Crean said. “It didn’t affect them.”
Perhaps pressure got to the Spartans when they had chances to extend their lead late in the game, and to possibly push the game to overtime.
Trailing by three with 3.7 seconds left, Gary Harris was fouled on a 3-point attempt. He missed the first one – setting off sighs in the sold-out arena – and after making the second, he deliberately missed the third.
Indiana got the rebound.
Oladipo got to it, of course – and he hit two free throws to seal the win.
“We were right there,” Gary Harris said somberly. “And, we could’ve won.”
Keith Appling had missed the front end of a one and one with a little more than a minute left.
“I’d say I was more upset than surprised,” he said.
Michigan State (22-5, 11-3) had won five straight and 11 of 12 with its only loss during the stretch at Indiana.
Oladipo, who sprained his left ankle in his last game, had 21 points, seven rebounds, six steals and three blocks in last month’s five-point win against the Spartans.
Crean insisted that the junior shooting guard “wasn’t even close” to 100-percent healthy.
“There’s no doubt his foot hurt,” Crean said. “That mind was right, and that was the biggest thing.”
Cody Zeller had 17 points – nearly doubling what he had in the previous matchup against Michigan State – while Jordan Hulls and Christian Watford scored 12 each for the Hoosiers.
Harris had 19 points, Adreian Payne scored 17 and the rest of their teammates struggled offensively.
Appling, Michigan State’s leading scorer, was held to six points on 1-of-8 shooting.
“My quarterback struggled a little bit,” Izzo said.
Branden Dawson scored eight and Derrick Nix had eight points and some of his contributions offensively late in the game looked like they were going to lead to a win.
Nix made a go-ahead shot – after grabbing rebounds off two of his misses – to put Michigan State ahead 64-63 lead with 3:08 left and scored again in the post on its next possession.
Harris made one of two free throws with 1:38 remaining to give the Spartans a game-high, four-point lead.
Watford responded with a three-point play on the ensuing possession to pull Indiana within a point and Oladipo did the rest.
“It was a huge win for us,” Oladipo said. “We’ve come a long way.”