Originally written on The Detroit Sports Site  |  Last updated 9/6/14
It’s round three of the Michigan State Spartans’ 2013 hoops gauntlet, and this next contest is a doozy. Following a big win on the road in Wisconsin (stunningly their second in a row) the Spartans now must make the trip south to Bloomington to tangle with the Indiana Hoosiers in a battle for the top of the Big Ten. Last season, Michigan State was dominated at Assembly Hall. They’ll have a chance for redemption Sunday, as they attempt to fire another salvo to a close competitor in the race for first place. Surviving a second straight rabid environment is a tall task. Spartan Jump Shots breaks down a third tough contest in a row, and explains what the Spartans must do to reach 7-1. Michigan State’s Key To Victory: Get nasty inside. Last season, Michigan State was 1-1 against Indiana. Both games couldn’t have looked more different, as the Spartans dominated one and completely folded in the other. The reason? In the first match up in East Lansing, Michigan State pounded the paint with anger, as Derrick Nix and Aderian Payne combined to score 22 points, pull down seven boards and four huge offensive rebounds. In the second game, that effort wasn’t there, as Nix and Payne scored only seven points with six rebounds. Moreover, Cody Zeller was intimidated in the first game but elevated his game by February’s meeting. Michigan State must challenge Zeller physically again. Whoever wins this battle will win the paint. With the amount of big bodies lurking on both sides, that’s a virtual certainty. Indiana’s Key To Victory: More hot shooting. During their Bloomington blowout last season, Indiana shot 47 percent from the floor, getting plenty of close looks in the middle and draining their open looks. Even in losing to the Spartans, Indiana shot a respectable 42 percent. This year, the Hoosiers are one of the most efficient teams in the country, making 50 percent of their shots. If those numbers stay close, Michigan State will have to play a perfect defensive game on the road to beat Indiana, and frankly, perfection doesn’t exist in this league. If Victor Oladipo, Christian Watford and Zeller all knock down their open shots, the Hoosiers will come close to scoring their average of 84 points. The X-Factors: Branden Dawson and Jordan Hulls Dawson only scored seven points against the Hoosiers last year and coming off his big performance against Wisconsin (18 points, 13 rebounds) it’s clear his game is evolving more by the day. In his home state, Dawson could be inspired to put forth another big effort against the Hoosiers, which would help the Spartans diversify their offensive attack and might be enough to put them over the top. Keith Appling scored 25 against Indiana last season in a win, so a motivated Dawson will have something to shoot for. When the Hoosiers are winning big, Hulls is usually the one doing the sneaky bit of critical damage to the opposition, especially from three point land. In a loss to Wisconsin, however, Hulls only scored four points, missed six shots and didn’t make a three. That demonstrates his overall importance to the Hoosiers’ team. If he’s able to get into double figures against the Spartans, Indiana will likely win the game. Most Important “State” Stat Of The Game: 14, the number of assists Michigan State enjoyed in their big home win over Indiana last year. This season, the Spartans average that same amount a game. When they’re winning, they’re usually sharing the ball and finding excellent looks. Conversely, Indiana averages 16 assists per game. Whoever shares the best will be doing a good job of spacing and going low to high. That will be enough to put either side over the top, given passing generally leads to good open shots. Intangibles: Streaking Spartans. Since opening the season with a tough loss at Minnesota, the Spartans look like a changed team. They’ve won six games in a row, including three in particularly tough road conditions. How might that work to their advantage in Bloomington? Michigan State won’t be intimidated easy, being they’ve been playing away from home recently and are one of the hottest teams in the country. They might even have just a bit of swagger entering Assembly Hall this time around. As far as mindsets go, that could prove to be an important advantage playing a tough team on the road. Prediction: I’ll admit, I wasn’t a believer in Michigan State’s ability to win a big road game against Wisconsin. By gritting out an ugly game, they proved me and plenty of other doubters wrong. Give them credit for playing some of their best lock down defense of the year. This Indiana test five days later is a bit too steep, though. The Hoosiers will have the frenzied home crowd and all their weapons firing at full strength. The Spartans are more game than they were in February 2012, but fall nonetheless. Indiana 75, Michigan State 68 Max DeMara is a senior editor at The Detroit Sports Site. You can find him on Twitter @SportsGuyTheMax
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

World Series: Game One live blog

Lance Briggs left Bears' locker room to avoid the fighting

Could the Seahawks have gotten more for Percy Harvin?

Five storylines to watch in the 2014 World Series

Favre delays Lambeau return due to Bart Starr’s health

Cowboys release Michael Sam from practice squad

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Fan in critical condition after being beaten before Bears game

Ben Roethlisberger rips the media

Tim Tebow: Gators don't have offensive leadership, lack heart

Colts punter asks Antonio Brown not to kick him in face

NFL: Luke Kuechly should not have been ejected

Report: Okla. St. players fell asleep in drive-thru, arrested

Report: Back injury could end Nathan Horton's career

Report: Ray Rice files grievance against Ravens

UEFA Champions League midway report: Groups E – H

PHOTO: Fans place Manning’s 509 football in Hall of Fame

Jets sign Jeremy Kerley to $16M 4-year extension

10 teams that should try to trade for Yoenis Cespedes

Lego stadiums: turning a childhood hobby into a business

Bayless: Kobe's sexual assault trial gave him 'edge' and 'sizzle'

Blackhawks make leukemia patient's dream come true

College football's post-Week 8 Playoff projection

Ortiz surprised military families with World Series tickets

NFL Power Rankings Week 7

College Basketball News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

Rice files grievance against Ravens

UEFA Champions League midway report

World Series: Game One live blog

Cowboys release Michael Sam

Bayless: Kobe's sexual assault trial gave him 'edge'

10 teams that should try to trade for Yoenis Cespedes

Five storylines to watch in the 2014 World Series

Ben Roethlisberger rips media

NFL Power Rankings Week 7

Pistorius sentenced to five years

Lane Kiffin trashed in political ad

Details of War Machine's suicide letter leaked

Today's Best Stuff
For Bloggers

Join the Yardbarker Network for more promotion, traffic, and money.

Company Info
Help
What is Yardbarker?

Yardbarker is the largest network of sports blogs and pro athlete blogs on the web. This site is the hub of the Yardbarker Network, where our editors and algorithms curate the best sports content from our network and beyond.