BLOOMINGTON, Ind. - Michigan State guard Gary Harris
shouldn't be on the court for more than 30 minutes a game right now, according to Spartans coach Tom Izzo.
The sophomore is still trying to find his way back from an ankle injury that's kept him out of the lineup three times this season and Izzo said he isn't fit or on top of his game.
"I swear he's not what he's going to be," Izzo said.
Tell that to Indiana.
Harris scored 26 points, including 17 in the first half, to lead No. 5 Michigan State to a 73-56 victory over the Hoosiers on Saturday.
Harris played 37 minutes for the Spartans (13-1, 2-0 Big Ten), spending most of them picking apart Indiana (10-5, 0-2).
"His conditioning still isn't there," Izzo said. "Like an idiot, I played him 37 minutes. I have to go do something coaches hate doing, I have to go apologize to him."
No apology necessary, says Harris.
"Once we see some shots go down early, it can be a long day for the other team," Harris said, conceding that Izzo may be right about his fitness. "I was dead tired at the end of the game."
Hoosiers coach Tom Crean, who said his team fell to a potential national champion, called Harris lethal and efficient.
"Gary was an assassin today," Crean said.
The win ended a run of three straight Indiana wins over the Spartans.
Michigan State turned 13 Indiana turnovers into 20 points - with Harris the finisher on several of the plays - capitalizing on a problem that has plagued the Hoosiers all season. They are averaging 16.4 turnovers a game, more than any other team in the conference.
Branden Dawson added 13 points for the Spartans.
Yogi Ferrell led Indiana with 17 points while Will Sheehey added 13.
After falling behind by as many as 15 points early in the second half the Hoosiers made a run, using freshman guard Stanford Robinson to clamp down on Harris and finding points from someone other than Ferrell.
"I wish we would have got him on Harris in the first half," Crean said of Robinson.
RELATED:> Comparoni: The Return of the Izzo Code
Sheehey buried a 3-pointer with 8:54 left in the game to close the gap to 50-41, turning and sprinting back down court as the shot went through and the crowd erupted.
But at the other end of the court, Indiana couldn't come up with a rebound off a series of Spartan misses, finally watching Harris come back to life for what would become a 5-point play.
Harris hit a 3-pointer and drew a foul from Robinson. And as Harris pumped his first in front of the celebrating Spartans bench, Robinson was hit with a technical foul.
Harris made two of the three free throws and the Spartans were up 55-41.
Without Ferrell's 10 first-half points, the Hoosiers might have been all but out of the game by halftime.
Michigan State turned Indiana's eight turnovers into 13 first-half points and a 33-24 lead.
The Hoosiers had no answer for Harris, not even Ferrell.
Harris had 17 points by the half, including a 3-pointer with 45 seconds left that he hit over Ferrell, who fell as he scrambled to get to him and was sprawled on the court at his feet.
Indiana went up 9-5 in the opening 4 minutes on a 3-pointer by Ferrell.
But the Spartans shut down the Hoosiers' momentum in a hurry, going on a 10-0 run that was capped by a layup and free throw from Harris with 11:35 left.
Harris entered the game averaging a team-high 17.4 points a game. But he still hasn't been the player he or Izzo expected this season. So he spent part of the morning, he and Izzo said, watching video of his play from last season and said it helped.
Now Izzo, who said he apologized to Harris for leaving him on the court too long, hopes he can build on this game.
"You've got to have guys who make plays," Izzo said. "I think Gary Harris is going to be that guy for us this year."
Michigan State is 7-0 on the road this season but plays its next two games, against No. 3 Ohio State on Tuesday and Minnesota on Jan. 11, at home.
The Hoosiers will try for their first Big Ten win at Penn State on Jan. 11.
Last year, MSU lost 75-70 to Indiana no the road, and 72-68 in East Lansing. Izzo felt that All-America Victor Oladipo was the difference in those games, but the Spartans have a similar difference-maker this year in Harris.
"Last year I thought we played awfully well both games," Izzo said, "but they just made better plays and they had a guy (Oladipo) that made a couple of those plays, and some day we might be calling him Magic, Michael and LeBron and everything else. He was a very, very good player. Remember, he made a couple of big steals. He just made plays. Even when we had that 3-point lead late at our place, he made plays. And that's what you've got to have.
"I think Gary Harris is going to be that guy for us, this year, where he just makes plays. That one where he drove down the middle right before the half was a play he manufactured. He has to do more of that. The better shape he gets in, the more comfortable he feels back in practicing every day, you're going to see him (take off). I know that's stupid to say when you get 26 points, but he's got a lot to give you."
On The Rebound
MSU was a miserable rebounding team earlier in the year, but has - well - rebounded in recent games. The Hoosiers came into this game ranked No. 1 in the nation in rebounding margin at +13.9, but the Spartans managed to hold a 34-32 edge on the glass in this game.
Izzo sees progress, but wants more.
"The Texas win taught us how to win on the road, it taught us how to rebound against good rebounding teams," Izzo said. "We came in here and we were up seven or eight on the boards and then in the last 10 minutes we did a poor job (in rebounding) and that bothered me because I thought we were making some progress with our rebounding.
"Hey, we're going to get back at it tomorrow because they are a very good rebounding team and we didn't have some key guys getting them."
Appling With The KO Blow
Keith Appling provided the knockout blow with 11 straight points for the Spartans, as part of an 11-3 run. It turned a 59-46 lead into a 68-49 edge with 3:35 to play.
"It was a big win against a good team on the road in a tough place to win.
Izzo Quotes & Notes:
Izzo was "a little bit upset with the way we played in the first half. They turned it over; we turned it over."
Izzo felt MSU didn't get the ball inside enough to Payne.
"Our guys locked up defensively pretty good (in the second half)," Izzo said.
"I don't know if we executed much better. We have some work to do on that."
"Harris was of course unbelievable. He's a special player. He was solid defensively. He did some things offensively and we tried to get the ball in his hands more and sometimes he backed off because he was fatigued."
"We got a lot out of Matt Costello and Branden Dawson. Costello did a good job."
On Schilling: "We didn't play him as much. In fairness, I don't know what I'm going to do in the next couple of weeks (rotation-wise).
On Valentine possibly returning to the bench: "I think we were better with our other lineup where Denzel was more like a Morris Peterson, coming in, bringing some energy and some fire at the guard position. Now we're bringing in some big guys, mostly, and we're not as effective.
"We have to get what we can get out of our bigs. Valentine and Trice have to be dynamite coming off that bench and we weren't that way today.
"So I don't know what I'm going to do with that but we're not going to push Matt. Each game, we play him a little bit more. In another week or two we will be down to having a rotation, and that will make us a better team and an easier team to coach."
"So our big thing now is getting our rotation down. With all the injuries we've had, we are out of synch. We're probably a week or two away from that."