After a hard-fought win over the Indiana Hoosiers in Bloomington on Saturday night, the No. 4 Michigan State men’s basketball team found themselves in another down-to-the-wire, dogfight of a road game against the Iowa Hawkeyes.
In a final five minutes where the lead was never more than five, the Spartans survived a barn-burner, defeating the Hawkeyes 96-93.
There were a lot of similarities between the Spartans’ win Tuesday night in Iowa City and their victory over the weekend. The obvious one being that both games ended with the Michigan State opponent getting off a decent mid-court shot, down three points at the buzzer.
Not only did Iowa get a chance like Indiana to send the game to overtime, but the shot came after one of Michigan State’s best free-throw shooters missed two free throws in the final seconds. On Saturday it was Cassius Winston, but Tuesday night it was Miles Bridges.
Aside from the missed free throws, Bridges had as good of a bounce-back game as a player could and made a heads-up play with a late steal up three points in the final five seconds.
Bridges led the way for the Spartans the entire game, finishing with 25 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists and a steal. The sophomore had 11 points in the last eight and a half minutes in the first half and finished with 15 at the break. Bridges had a somewhat quiet second half, not scoring for almost 12 minutes.
Regardless of the scoring drought, Bridges looked like the leader tonight. Nick Ward and Jaren Jackson Jr. were effective when they were on the floor, but played only 12 and 19 minutes respectively due to foul trouble.
Bridges had one of his better games over the last few weeks. He found a good balance between going to his jump shot and driving to the rim. Bridges looked like the versatile slashing forward who many believed could be the Big Ten player of the year at the beginning of the season.
Josh Langford seemed to have his jump shot back at times after a bad performance at Indiana. The guard finished with 15 points on 5-9 shooting from the field.
Cassius Winston had a difficult night shooting– going 2 of 7 from the field–but finished with eight assists to only two turnovers.
Michigan State’s team defense struggled most of the game, giving up 90 points for the first time this season. However, the Spartans buckled down once falling down 82-76 with seven minutes left and held the Hawkeyes to 4-13 from the field in the final six minutes. The defense’s play was highlighted by a shot-clock violation on Iowa with 30 seconds remaining in the game.
For the second straight game, the Spartans held on for a win despite being outscored in the second half. Nick Ward and Jaren Jackson Jr. having to sit because of foul trouble was a major factor. Iowa’s 6-foot-9 sophomore forward Tyler Cook had a lot of success without Michigan State’s top rim protectors on the floor, finishing with 26 points.
Ward and Jackson performed well in their limited minutes. Jackson started off hot with back to back dunks and scored six of the Spartans first eight points. The freshman finished with 11 points, 5 rebounds and two blocks. Ward finished with 17 points on 7-9 shooting and was 3-4 from the free throw line.
With the win on Tuesday, Michigan State improves to 11-2 in the Big Ten and 23-3 overall. The Spartans will now travel back to East Lansing and prepare for their Saturday matinee showdown with the No. 3 Purdue Boilermakers, in the first top-four matchup at the Breslin Center since 2013.