BLOOMINGTON, Ind. - Michigan State is playing for no less than a national championship this season, and Indiana coach Tom Crean is a believer.
The fifth-ranked Spartans cruised to a 73-56 victory over the Hoosiers behind a career-high 26 points from Gary Harris at Assembly Hall on Saturday, and Crean was as impressed as anyone in the building.
"They have all the makings of what a national championship team looks like," Crean said. "They have too many guys right now. They have too many guys that understand each other and understand how to win. Their maturity, their experience and understanding of each other, that was the biggest difference today and that's why they have a chance to win the national championship and we have a lot to learn."
Harris, a sophomore guard, scored 17 points in the first half and senior guard Keith Appling, who sat for most of the first half with foul trouble, scored 14 in the second half for the Spartans (13-1, 2-0 Big Ten). Junior guard Branden Dawson added 13 points and six rebounds.
"Harris was, of course, unbelievable," Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said. "He is a special player and I swear to you he is not where he is gonna be. His conditioning is nowhere near where it needs to be or where it's gonna be, but he was solid on defense and did some things on offense, and we tried to get the ball in his hands more."
Michigan State's leading scorer has been hampered by a sprained ankle but showed he has almost completely healed, with several explosive moves to the basket to balance his five 3-pointers.
"That's just part of being healthy," Harris said. "Once I'm feeling healthy, I feel like I can explode with the best of them."
After both teams plodded through a sloppy first half, Michigan State scored the first seven points of the second half and appeared to break open a tight game, but Indiana put together a run midway through the second half, cutting the deficit to 50-41.
However, Harris scored five straight, including a 3-pointer that turned into a four-point play when he was fouled. He added a free throw when freshman guard Stanford Robinson was called for a technical foul.
"We struggle with understanding momentum," Crean said. "We struggle with understanding time and score. It can't become jump-shooting time (when we close the gap)."
The Hoosiers got no closer as Appling heated up to put the game away.
"Any time you get two big road wins (it's big)," said Izzo, whose team won at Penn State on Tuesday. "I'm sure not going to discredit how big this win was against a good team on the road in such a tough place to win."
Harris isn't far from home when he plays at Assembly Hall, and in the first half he looked as comfortable as he has all season, despite the fact that the home crowd likes to get on him. He was 4-for-7 from 3-point range while playing all but one minute of the half.
"It's just the home crowd," Harris said. "They want their team to win just like the Izzo does when we play at home. I understand where it's coming from. The more motivation is this is a Big Ten game and they beat us twice last year and we had to come out and make a statement and get the win."
Indiana (10-5, 0-2) did its best to take advantage, getting 10 points in the first half from sophomore guard Yogi Ferrell and cutting the Michigan State lead to 25-24 when sophomore forward Jeremy Hollowell hit a jumper off the glass with less than three minutes to play.
But the Spartans closed the half on an 8-0 run to lead 33-24 at the break.
Ferrell finished with 17 points to lead Indiana while senior forward Will Sheehey scored 13 and Robinson added 11.
NOTES: Michigan State won the rebounding battle 34-32. It was the first time Indiana had been outrebounded all season as it entered the game No. 1 in the Big Ten in rebound margin. ... Indiana coach Tom Crean served as an assistant under Michigan State coach Tom Izzo from 1995 to 1999. Entering the game, Crean was 3-6 against Michigan State, but Indiana had won three straight. ... Indiana entered the game last in the Big Ten in turnover margin and committed eight in the first half, which led to 13 Michigan State points. The Hoosiers committed 15 for the game.