Michigan St.-Indiana Preview
By JEFF BARTL
(AP) -- As an assistant at Michigan State from 1995-99, Indiana coach Tom Crean helped Tom Izzo implement a defense-first philosophy with a talented offensive group in order to maximize the team's success.
Neither have strayed much from that approach.
Two of the Big Ten's top defensive teams face efficient opposing offenses as the No. 7 Hoosiers host the 13th-ranked Spartans on Sunday.
Crean took the head coaching job at Marquette after helping lead Michigan State to the 1999 Final Four - highlighted by his own national semifinal appearance in 2003 - and has since guided Indiana's program back to national prominence.
While his Hoosiers (17-2, 5-1) rank second in the country scoring 83.7 points per game, their conference-leading field-goal percentage defense (36.9) has been a major reason they lead the nation in scoring differential at plus-23.8 per contest.
Indiana held Penn State to 33.3 percent from the field in a 72-49 victory Wednesday.
"It's a hard league. You don't have the best league in the country on one end of the floor," Crean said. "You've got to not only be able to score but to guard people in this league. Our guys are doing a much better job of that game to game."
His former boss takes a similar approach. The Spartans (17-3, 6-1) are third in the Big Ten in shooting behind Michigan and Indiana (50.0) at 46.4 percent despite ranking seventh scoring 69.2 points per game.
Michigan State's defense has been the main reason for its success, currently second in the conference in both field-goal percentage defense (37.8) and scoring defense at 57.8 points per game.
It held Wisconsin to 29.6 percent from field to make up for a season-worst point total in Tuesday's 49-47 victory at Wisconsin.
Izzo, though, knows his squad will have a tough chore in slowing the Hoosiers' offensive attack - especially Victor Oladipo, who averages 13.5 points with a slashing style that could create matchup problems for the Spartans.
"They're very athletic and they've got a couple guys who can knock down 3s, but probably the biggest challenge is Oladipo because he runs like a deer," Izzo said. "He's just a load to cover because he's multi-dimensional."
The Spartans have won three straight on the road but will have to contend with a raucous crowd in Bloomington, where they have lost five of the last seven.
"Indiana's a great team," said Branden Dawson, who scored a career-high 18 points and tied a career high with 13 rebounds versus Wisconsin. "We just have to go in there and play tough because we know it's going to be a tough environment."
Then-freshman Cody Zeller scored a team-high 18 points to help lead Indiana to a 70-55 rout of visiting Michigan State in the most recent meeting Feb. 28, ending a six-game skid in the series.
Zeller, though, didn't have a field goal for the first time in his Indiana career and finished with two points versus Penn State, but Crean said it won't detract him from getting attention from opposing defenses.
"He didn't really look for that many opportunities to score," Crean said. "I'm not concerned about that, he will. The one thing he's got is constant team attention and what I mean by that is that he might be guarded by one person, but everybody knows when he has the ball."
Michigan State leading scorer Keith Appling scored only six points in the most recent meeting after setting a career-high with 25 in an 80-65 home victory over the Hoosiers on Dec. 28, 2011.
Updated January 26, 2013