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February 26, 2006

Indiana knocks off Michigan State

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BLOOMINGTON, Ind. - If Indiana had played like this all season, coach Mike Davis might not be leaving at the end of the season.

Robert Vaden scored 21 points and Errek Suhr stole the ball and hit two clinching free throws with a half-minute to go as the Hoosiers held off a second-half comeback for a 78-71 win over No. 18 Michigan State on Sunday in Davis's final game at Assembly Hall.

Indiana (15-10, 7-7 Big Ten) will finish the regular season at Purdue and Michigan before the start of the conference tournament March 9 in Indianapolis. Michigan State (19-9, 7-7), which beat Indiana by 14 points in East Lansing last month, closes the regular season at home against Wisconsin and Illinois.

The Spartans, led by Maurice Ager's 30 points, rallied from 16 points down early in the second half and took their first lead on a 3-pointer by Ager with seven minutes to go. There were three ties after that before a basket and free throw by Marshall Strickland put Indiana ahead for good.

Vaden hit his fifth 3-pointer with under two minutes to go before a pair of free throws by Shannon Brown pulled Michigan State within 75-71. The Spartans had a chance to score again, but Suhr stole the ball, missed a layup, got his own rebound and was fouled.

He hit both free throws, then Strickland made one of two foul shots to finish the scoring.

Davis, under increasing criticism all season, resigned just over a week ago amid a five-game losing streak that knocked Indiana out of the Top 25. Still playing for an NCAA bid, the Hoosiers held off Penn State on Wednesday and took control early against the Spartans.

Indiana hit seven of its first eight shots and took an eight-point lead within the first four minutes. The Spartans, on the way to their fourth loss in the past five games, pulled within 21-20 in the next seven minutes, but a rebound basket and two straight 3-pointers by Strickland started a 10-0 Indiana run.

The Hoosiers continued pulling away, and a 3-pointer by Vaden and a dunk by Marco Killingsworth off a rifle pass from Strickland gave Indiana its biggest lead of the half at 41-26.

Michigan State came within 10 points with a minute to go, but a rebound basket by Roderick Wilmont pushed the lead to 43-31 at the break.

Two 3-pointers by Vaden gave Indiana its biggest lead of the game at 49-33 two minutes into the second half before Michigan State slowly worked its way back.

A 3-pointer by Ager, a basket by Paul Davis after an Indiana error and another basket by Ager tied the game for the first time at 57, and neither team led by more than two points until the Hoosiers pulled away in the final minutes.

Killingsworth finished with 18 points and Strickland added 16 for the Hoosiers. Brown added 18 for Michigan State.

For more coverage of the Indiana Hoosiers, check out InsideIU.com.
For more coverage of the Michigan State Spartans, check out Spartanmag.com.

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