EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Gary Harris gave No. 3 Michigan State a desperately needed offensive boost.
Harris scored 20 of his 24 points in the second half, helping the Spartans beat Indiana 71-66 on Tuesday night to remain unbeaten in the Big Ten.
“He’s just got to take over games,” Spartans coach Tom Izzo said. “He is that good, to be very blunt and honest about it. What an incredible performance by him with just 13 shots. He’s probably the most efficient player in college basketball.”
Michigan State (18-1, 7-0) has won 11 straight games, extending their best one-loss start in a season in school history despite playing poorly at times with an injury-depleted roster.
“We’re 18-1 now,” Travis Trice said. “That’s all we care about. ”
The Hoosiers (12-7, 2-4) have lost two straight and four of six. After beating then-No. 3 Wisconsin at home last week, they lost at home to Northwestern.
“I’m proud of my team because I think we did a great job the last couple days of establishing even more togetherness,” Hoosiers coach Tom Crean said.
Michigan State went on a 10-2 run to take a 62-52 lead with 4:29 left, but led by just four points after Yogi Ferrell made a 3-pointer with 36 seconds remaining. Keith Appling made one of two free throws on the ensuing possession and Stanford Robinson’s runner pulled the Hoosiers within three points.
Trice made two free throws with 13.7 seconds left to give the Spartans a five-point lead, essentially sealing their 18th win in 19 home games against Indiana.
“We’re finding ways to win and other teams around the country are finding ways to lose,” Izzo said.
The Spartans were missing perhaps their best player, Adreian Payne, for a fourth straight game with a sprained right foot.
Izzo said Payne wants to play Saturday at home against No. 21 Michigan, the only other Big Ten team without a conference loss, but the senior standout is questionable at best because he just started to run Monday on a weight-bearing treadmill.
“He could be day to day for two weeks,” Izzo said.
The Hoosiers didn’t have a key player, senior forward Will Sheehey, in the starting lineup for the first time this season after he injured an ankle against the Wildcats. Austin Etherington started the first game of his career in Sheehey’s place, giving the team a second sophomore in a lineup with three freshmen.
“I’m proud of the way we played without Will,” Crean said. “Everybody that went into the game impacted the game.”
Ferrell scored 14 of his 19 points in the second half. He is leading the Big Ten in scoring with a 19-point average in conference games. Indiana’s Noah Vonleh had 13 points and 13 rebounds. He was named Big Ten freshman of the week on Monday for the second straight time and sixth this season.
Michigan State’s Branden Dawson scored 13 points and grabbed nine rebounds.
Appling, who appeared to play much of the game in pain, had eight points on 2-of-10 shooting after averaging nearly 18 points the previous seven games. Trice and Denzel Valentine both scored 10 points.
Indiana led 28-27 at halftime on an eighth lead change after seven ties in a sloppy, closely contested first half. Midway through the first half, the teams had combined for more turnovers (10) than field goals (9).
Harris had just four points on 2-of-5 shooting in the first half, missing his only 3-point attempt. He finished 8 of 13, connecting on 4 of 6 shots from beyond the arc.
“I just wanted to come out in the second half and be aggressive and put some points on the board,” Harris said.
The Spartans started to play a little better in the second half, going on an 11-2 run to take a four-point lead in the middle of the half, but they couldn’t sustain success against an inexperienced and scrappy team.
“Indiana, I thought, outplayed us and we found a way to win,” Izzo said. “Those young guys played well, played hard.”
Harris, who was recruited to stay in state to play for Indiana, scored a career-high 26 points to lead Michigan State to a 73-56 victory over the Hoosiers last month. He had five steals in both games against Indiana.
“Knowing him as long as we’ve known him, he is as good as it gets it in the backcourt,” Crean said.