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Men’s basketball: Tough stretch coming up for Indiana

Updated: January 26, 2013 11:14PM



With three games in the next seven days, No. 7 Indiana faces little margin for error.

The week begins with Sunday’s matchup with No. 13 Michigan State. A Wednesday night game at archrival Purdue is followed by Saturday’s ESPN Gameday showdown with current No. 2 Michigan, who could be No. 1 next week.

The Hoosiers (17-2, 5-1 Big Ten), Spartans (17-3, 6-1) and Wolverines (18-1, 5-1) head into today’s games as the only Big Ten teams with just one conference loss. Michigan plays at Illinois on Sunday night.

Indiana coach Tom Crean recognized last week that his team had a tough road ahead.

“We probably had the shortest practice of the year yesterday,” Crean said after IU’s 72-49 win over Penn State on Wednesday night. “Outside of weightlifting, we were probably on the court for about an hour and five minutes. So we lost a lot of our rhythm. It got us a little tonight.

“We have a hard stretch coming up. ... Every game is going to be an absolute battle.”

Starting with the Spartans, who have won six straight since opening the conference schedule with a 76-63 loss at Minnesota.

The Golden Gophers closed that game with a 12-0 run. Since, the Spartans have found their finishing touch: three of those victories have been by three points or less, including a 59-56 win over Ohio State on Jan. 19 and a 49-47 win at Wisconsin last Tuesday.

Keith Appling and Lew Wallace graduate Branden Dawson combined for 37 of Michigan State’s points in the Wisconsin win. Appling is Michigan State’s top scorer, averaging 14.1 points overall and 12.4 in conference play.

Dawson and freshman Gary Harris, last year’s Indiana Mr. Basketball, have helped share the scoring load in Big Ten play. Harris is averaging 12.1 ppg in conference play and Dawson has averaged 11.9.

The teams split last season’s series, with each team winning on its home court. The Hoosiers cruised to a 70-55 win last Feb. 28, in a game in which Draymond Green was the only Spartan to score in double figures.

The Hoosiers had five scorers in double figures in that game, led by Cody Zeller. The center rebounded from a four-point game in his first meeting with Michigan State to score 18 points in the rematch.

Coming off the worst offensive performance of his career — 0 for 4 from the floor, with two points on 2 of 4 free throws — Zeller is due for a bounceback game today. He has yet to post consecutive single-digit scoring games in his career.



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