Michigan State didn't need too much help from a healthy Adreian Payne in a decisive victory over Indiana earlier this month.
The third-ranked Spartans have kept winning and remained atop the Big Ten without their now-injured post player, who is expected to miss a fourth straight game in Tuesday night's rematch.
Payne had just four points and five rebounds in 25 minutes at Indiana on Jan. 4, but Michigan State won 73-56 as Gary Harris had a career-high 26 points.
Payne hasn't played since a 72-68 overtime win over then-No. 3 Ohio State on Jan. 7 because of a sprained right foot. The Spartans, though, have extended their win streak to 10 during his absence, and they secured the first 17-1 start in school history with a 78-62 win at Illinois on Saturday.
Despite having the 6-foot-10 Payne on the bench, Michigan State outrebounded the Illini 38-25. The win pushed the Spartans to 6-0 in the Big Ten and kept them one-half game ahead of No. 21 Michigan, which visits Michigan State on Saturday night.
"We learned to play without (Payne)," said Harris, who scored a team-best 23 points Saturday. "Some other guys stepped up. We're building a deeper team."
The Spartans continued to play stingy defense while outshooting Illinois 55.8 percent to 37.7. They've allowed an average of 60.1 points on 36.4 percent shooting during the win streak.
"We're getting there," coach Tom Izzo said. "We're gutting things out. We're better defensively than we were a month ago. We're better rebounding than we were a month ago."
Michigan State will try to keep improving against an Indiana team that's still looking for consistency. That up-and-down play was most evident for the Hoosiers (12-6, 2-3) this past week.
They dealt then-No. 3 Wisconsin its first loss last Tuesday but fell 54-47 to sub-.500 Northwestern at home Saturday.
After shooting 51.6 percent against Wisconsin, Indiana had its worst performance in a decade at 25.0 percent. The Hoosiers missed 14 of 18 attempts from 3-point range, and freshman Noah Vonleh was the only player to finish in double figures.
He had 17 points and 12 rebounds for his conference-best seventh double-double. Leading scorer Yogi Ferrell (17.4 points per game) failed to reach double digits for the first time, finishing with nine points on 2-of-14 shooting.
"We have a long way to go, and I can't just put it on youth because obviously some of the younger guys didn't play up to their capabilities," coach Tom Crean said. "We didn't have some of the older guys playing as well. As a team we did not have the hunger that you need to play with on a daily basis be where it needed to be. Northwestern did."
Indiana has won three of four against Michigan State, but the victories came when the Hoosiers were in the Top 25. The Spartans have won the last six matchups in which Indiana has been unranked.
Michigan State had a 17-game home win streak in the series snapped with a 72-68 loss Feb. 19. Indiana was the nation's No. 1 team and Michigan State was No. 4.
Harris is averaging 22.0 points in three career matchups against Indiana, making 11 of 25 attempts from 3-point range (44.0 percent).
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