Indiana looks for upset against No. 6 Michigan State
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No. 6 Michigan State and Indiana are both dealing with their share of adversity these days, though the Big Ten rivals are in very different places.
The Spartans (18-3, 9-1) enjoy a top-10 ranking entering Saturday's tipoff on their home court in East Lansing, Mich. Longtime head coach Tom Izzo's team is tied atop the Big Ten with Michigan despite seeing its 13-game winning streak end last Sunday at Purdue.
However, the anticipated return of guard Joshua Langford won't be coming this season. The junior had missed eight straight games -- in which MSU went 7-1 -- with an ankle injury, and this week it was revealed he'll need surgery and will miss the rest of the season.
"Josh has a stress injury that we caught fairly early and we had hoped that, with treatment and rest, he would recover. He has not and will likely need surgery to prevent problems in the future," Izzo said. "We hate this for Josh and our team, as he was one of our leading scorers, one of our top 3-point shooters and one of our two best defensive guards. But our commitment to Josh and his long-term health is paramount. Josh has seen the best specialist in the country on this issue and we are putting together a plan for his complete recovery for the 2019-20 season."
Michigan State hardly skipped a beat in Langford's absence, but the extra minutes for players such as Cassius Winston and Matt McQuaid have been wearing the tandem down while the on-and-off absence of guard Kyle Ahrens has forced the Spartans to rely heavily on freshmen Aaron Henry and Gabe Brown.
Ahrens (back) should return against Indiana, but Michigan State will need more out of Henry and Brown.
"They need to get better," Izzo said. "I think Aaron has gotten a little bit better, I think the other guy who needs to get a little better who's maybe not quite ready for it yet is Gabe, but the injuries are what they are."
The Hoosiers (12-9, 3-7) have had their share of injuries, as well, something that has played a key role in their recent skid that has reached seven games.
Young players being forced into bigger roles have exacerbated the problems, which came to a head earlier this week in a road loss to Rutgers.
"I'm dealing with these guys right now," Indiana coach Archie Miller said. "There's just tomorrow. There's nothing to think about other than to get them the best they can be and make them feel as good as they can right now. To do that, I have to do a better job. Our staff's got to continue to do a better job and we've got to prepare them to do better."
To do that against a Final Four-caliber team, on the road, might be a tough ask, but it won't keep the Hoosiers from taking their best shot against the Spartans.
"We've dealt with a lot of odd situations this year," Miller said. "Confidence is a thing that can be shaken quickly. It's hard to earn a win. It's easy to take a
step back. We're gonna have to dig down, dig in and see what we're made of. It's not like we haven't been trying to do that. At times we've been up against it. I feel like we're gonna be all right here."
--Field Level Media
Updated February 1, 2019