Different venue, same result.
The No. 16 Iowa Hawkeyes defeated the No. 4 Michigan State Spartans Thursday in East Lansing, 76-59. It was a poor effort by the Spartans, as sloppy play combined with outstanding Iowa three-point shooting dug MSU into a hole early that they could not climb themselves out of.
Iowa came out shooting the lights out, determined to prove that the last game against MSU was not a fluke. Eighteen of their first 26 points came from the three-point line, and they finished shooting 45 percent from deep . As great as this shooting was, and it was pretty impressive, the Spartans could have prevented some of it with smarter defensive play. They consistently were not moving on defense, which allowed for open Hawkeyes.
Head coach Tom Izzo commented on his team’s poor defensive effort in the first half.
“The tougher team won and that is usually what happens,” Izzo said. “It wasn’t just the better shooting team that won, they shot well. I give them credit. But, the tougher team won.”
Another killer for MSU was the overwhelming amount of turnovers in the first half, 14 to be exact. For comparison’s sake, they had 16 the entire game in their last meeting with Iowa.
Wasting no time to get his game going was Iowa’s Peter Jok, who had 19 points in the first half, including three shots beyond the arc. He even finished out the half with a dunk that officially silenced the Breslin crowd, and led the Hawkeyes into halftime up 47-25.
Lost in all of this was the fact that Denzel Valentine was making his first appearance in the starting lineup since returning from injury. He quickly made his presence felt with a three-pointer on the Spartans’ first possession. He had another all-around impactful half, finishing with eight points, two rebounds, and two assists.
Whatever was said at halftime, Tum Tum Nairn took to heart as he wasted no time to push the Spartan tempo in hopes of changing the game. It worked, as he scored or assisted on all six points to start the half.
“We were down by 20. I was just trying to take it one possession at a time,” Nairn said.
Even with the Spartans attacking the Hawkeye defense more, they seemed to change nothing on the defensive end as Iowa continued to do whatever they wanted. To give the Spartans credit, they did minimize the damage done at the three-point line. In turn, however, they allowed Iowa to drive the paint and score easy buckets.
As the half dwindled, the Spartans made an effort to get themselves back into the game, even cutting the lead to 13 at one point. Valentine and Matt Costello and led the charge on offense as they were able to string together consecutive possessions ending with a basket. On the other end the Spartan defense stepped up as they slowed the Hawkeyes scoring rate and grabbed defensive rebounds, unlike in the first half.
Valentine talked about what the team did to try to turn things around.
“We just needed to play with more passion and energy on the defensive end,” Valentine said. “We started to get into them a little in the second half but it was too late.”
Even with the improved play by the Spartans towards the end of the half, it was not enough as Iowa eventually slowed the game down and brought the game to a close.
The Spartans’ next game is Sunday when they visit Wisconsin. The game will tip at 1:30 PM.