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Indiana
vs. Michigan State
When: 7 p.m. today
TV: ESPN
Radio: 1250 AM, 103.5 FM

Spartans should see an improved Zeller

– Michigan State limited Cody Zeller to four points in his first Big Ten game on Dec. 28 in East Lansing, Mich.

Zeller took a lot from that loss and has become a leading candidate for Big Ten Freshman of the Year.

Zeller and the No. 18 Hoosiers get another crack at the No. 5 Spartans at 7 p.m. today in Assembly Hall.

“The big thing we saw from Cody from game one (against Michigan State) to game two (against Ohio State) was how quick and willing he was to adapt and figure it out and then he carried it into the next game,” IU coach Tom Crean said during the Big Ten teleconference “… We don’t get the win (against the Buckeyes) without the way he played throughout the day. Certainly, Ohio State was a physical team as well that day, and Cody adjusted to that in a big way.

“Over a period of time, Cody has shown the more physical you are with him, the better he’s going to be. I don’t think that affects him, I think he relishes it. He had to go through it a little bit, especially on the road the first time, to understand that.”

Zeller leads Indiana in scoring (15.4) and rebounding (6.5). Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said Zeller and guard Victor Oladipo are two reasons the Hoosiers have won five of their last six games.

“Indiana is playing their best basketball this time of year,” Izzo said. “Zeller has really improved his game, the way he runs the court and the minutes he plays, he’s so much better with the ball in the post.

“ … Oladipo has stepped his game up enormously. They have the ball in his hands a little bit more, and he’s really doing some good things with it.”

Indiana (22-7, 9-7 Big Ten) is coming off a 69-50 victory at Minnesota on Sunday. Zeller had just seven points and two rebounds but still played a role in the win.

“Cody’s unique. I’ve never been around a freshman like him that is so good at impacting the game from so many different ways,” Crean said. “(Sunday) is a great example. He doesn’t have a great scoring or rebounding game, but when you watch the film and watch how he affects the game with his help defense, with his deflections, with his activity, with his running, with his passing. Just being a presence on the floor, that’s a strong statement.”

The Spartans (24-5, 13-3) are making a strong statement themselves for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament. Winners of seven straight, Michigan State has clinched a share of the Big Ten title. Draymond Green, a leading candidate for Big Ten Player of the Year, is averaging 15.6 points and 10.3 rebounds.

“They really seem to be clicking on all cylinders,” Crean said. “ … It all comes down to the rebounding and the running and all the things that they do really, really well. You’ve got to be able to match that throughout the game. They’re certainly a worthy champion the way that they have played throughout the conference season.”

lpope@jg.net

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