East Lansing, MI– On a night that sometimes resembled a Big Ten football game rather than a basketball game, Michigan State’s (18-1, 7-0) sophomore sensation Gary Harris poured in 24 points, 20 in the second half to help the Spartans hold off a very talented young Indiana (12-7, 2-4) team 71-66.
With Indiana coming off a disappointing loss to Northwestern, and playing without starting forward Will Sheehey due to injury, the Hoosiers managed to take a one point lead 28-27 into halftime. The Hoosiers pushed the lead to 46-41 on a steal and lay-up by freshmen Stanford Robinson. Then Harris took over, the Spartans would go on an 11-2 run sparked by two threes by Harris. In a game that featured 13 ties and 15 lead changes the Spartans would never again relinquish the lead.
Junior Branden Dawson scored 13 points and grabbed nine rebounds for the Spartans while Travis Trice came off the bench to score 10 points. Indiana was led by Kevin “Yogi” Ferrell’s 19 points while freshmen Noah Vonleh contributed 13 points and 13 rebounds.
The Spartans once again played without senior center and potential NBA lottery pick Adreian Payne. Payne missed his fourth consecutive game with an injury to his right foot but the real story of the night was the play of Harris. With Michigan State needing a spark Harris put on a display, scoring in transition, slashing to the basket for an and-one, making deep threes. He also managed to play defense as well accumulating five steals for the night. In two games versus the Hoosiers this season Harris has scored 50 points with 10 steals.
What makes Harris special is his ability to be a difference maker on both ends of the floor. He leads the Big Ten in steals during conference play (2.8 spg) and is second in the Big Ten in scoring at 17.9 ppg. Harris is projected to be a mid to late first round NBA draft pick if he declares early after this his sophomore season.
Michigan State next plays host to Michigan on Saturday January 25th while Indiana hosts Illinois on Sunday January 26th.
Derek LeFevre is a Correspondent and Scout for NetScouts Basketball.