INDIANAPOLIS -- Mike Davis expects Indiana to win the Big Ten tournament. On Friday, the Hoosiers took the first step.
Conference player of the year Jared Jeffries scored 14 points, three other Hoosiers reached double figures, and Indiana beat Michigan State 67-56 in the quarterfinals.
"I told these guys, 'Let everybody who is watching the game see the hardest-playing team in the country,"' said Davis, the Hoosiers' coach. "That's the way we have to play to be a good basketball team. That's the level I'm trying to get them to play at all the time."
It was a far cry from the last meeting between the two teams, Feb. 24, when Indiana built an early 16-point lead and wound up losing 57-54 in East Lansing, Mich.
The Hoosiers (20-10) were determined not to let a repeat occur Friday, and they set up a semifinal matchup with former Hoosiers player Luke Recker and Iowa. The Hawkeyes defeated the Big Ten's top-seeded team, Wisconsin, 58-56.
By limiting the Spartans to 3-of-13 shooting from 3-point range and 42.9 percent shooting in the first half, the Spartans never had an opportunity to recover from an early 11-point deficit - and that's just the way the Hoosiers designed it.
"At the beginning of the season, that was one of the main things coach Davis talked about," Tom Coverdale said. "We know our defense is what wins games for us."
Defense certainly was key, but the Hoosiers won the game in other ways, too.
They had scoring balance. In addition to Jeffries, the Hoosiers got 11 points each from Coverdale and Dane Fife. Jeff Newton added 10 points and seven rebounds.
They matched Michigan State, which has been known as the conference's strongest rebounding team in recent years, rebound-for-rebound.
They didn't give up open looks, and each time Michigan State (19-11) tried to challenge, the Hoosiers had an answer - and the decidedly partisan crowd to help.
Marcus Taylor and Adam Ballinger were the only consistent scorers for Michigan State (19-11), which lost in the conference tournament quarterfinals for the second straight year. Taylor finished with 20 points, Ballinger with 12. Chris Hill, who finished with nine points, was the only other Spartan to score more than six.
"I didn't think we were ready to shoot it when we had our opportunities," said Spartans coach Tom Izzo, whose team did not win a Big Ten regular-season or tournament title for the first time since 1996-97. "But we didn't have a lot of opportunities. I can't hide my disappointment in the physical nature of the game."
The Hoosiers' defense managed to take the Spartans completely out of their game early.
Indiana used a 9-0 run to take a 17-9 lead, and it led by as many as 11 in the first half.
Michigan State drew to 35-30 on Marcus Taylor's 15-footer with 17:39 left, but the Hoosiers answered with a 6-0 spurt to rebuild an 11-point lead with 14:09 to play.
Indiana extended the lead to 50-36 after Coverdale completed a three-point play and Donald Perry swooped in for a breakaway layup.
"That's their type of defense - pressure everything," Ballinger said. "That's what they were able to do to us. They really threw us out of our sets."
Michigan State closed to 60-52 on a driving layup from Taylor with 3:31 left, but the Hoosiers forced a turnover on the next Spartan possession and got two free throws from A.J. Moye to retake a 10-point lead. Then after Michigan State missed a basket, Indiana got another free throw from Fife.
The Spartans couldn't get closer than nine the rest of the way.
"I thought we fought harder than we ever fought at the beginning of the game defensively," said Davis, whose team has won 20 games two straight seasons. "Twenty wins doesn't mean anything to people - until we prove we are a good basketball team and go deep in the (NCAA) tournament."
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