No. 19 Hawkeyes seek revenge as Spartans eye a season sweep

The old proverb says revenge is a dish best served cold, meaning revenge is better when it comes unexpectedly or its been long feared.

While Thursday’s matchup between No. 6 Michigan State  (17-2, 8-0 Big Ten) and No. 19 Iowa (16-3, 5-3 Big Ten) is not unexpected, it has been long awaited for both teams since they met earlier in the year.

On Dec. 3 the Hawkeyes and Spartans went to battle in East Lansing at the Breslin Center, with the Spartans coming away with a huge 90-68 victory. It was a flexing of the muscles for the Spartans as they dominated on both ends of the floor, shooting 51 percent from the field while holding Iowa to just 32 percent. It was the type of performance that  leaves the losing team thirsty for payback.

Now the Hawkeyes have their chance on Thursday on their home floor at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. However, both teams have come a long way since early December. Here is the tale of the tape.

Iowa

Coming into the matchup, the Hawkeyes enter as one of the hottest teams in the nation. They have won five games in a row and 10 of their last 11 stretching all the way back to Dec. 6.

One of the main reasons they have been so hot is because of an offense that has been extremely potent. Iowa is the No. 2 team in the Big Ten in scoring offense, averaging 82.8 points per game as a team. The Hawkeyes also rank nationally as the No. 10 team in adjusted offensive efficiency at 118.0 according to KenPom.

The offense is so good due to balanced scoring, as five players score in double figures. Iowa is led by two big men in junior forward Tyler Cook, who averages 16.5 points per game while pulling down 8.2 rebounds per game, and sophomore forward Luka Garza, who averages 13.9 points per game with 4.9 rebounds per game.

With two great big men, the Hawkeyes love to dominate the painted area, but they can also step out and shoot 3-pointers. As a team they shoot an impressive 37 percent from beyond the arc. One of their top marksmen is freshman guard Joe Wieskamp, who shoots 3-pointers at a 45 percent clip and recently went 6-of-6 from deep for 29 points in his last game against Illinois. The effort from Wieskamp earned him Big Ten Freshman of the Week honors.

While their offense is already a hard thing to stop, it’s even worse when Iowa is at home. The Hawkeyes are 11-1 in Iowa City, averaging 85.7 points per game while shooting 49 percent from the field and 38 percent from 3-point range.

Michigan State

Head coach Tom Izzo and the Spartans will travel to Iowa City with a 12-game win streak and an unblemished record in conference play at 8-0. Michigan State has been dominating conference opponents with the highest scoring margin in the Big Ten at +17.8.

That margin is due to the dynamic offense that Michigan State possesses, led by junior guard Cassius Winston who averages 18 points per game to go along with his Big Ten-leading 7.3 assists per game. The Spartans and Winston love to get out and run in transition.

To go along with their high-powered offense, the Spartans are starting to click on the defensive end. They have been solid all season long, holding teams to 66 points per game, but their recent five-game stretch has been even better. MSU is now holding teams on average to 62.2 points per game, that includes the last game against Maryland when the Terrapins, who average 76.8 points, were held to just 55.

The stingy defense also showed in early December when these two teams first met. In that game the Spartans held the Hawkeyes to just 68 points and slowed down Cook and Garza, who came away with 15 and 7 points, respectively.

What will be interesting about this matchup is that the Spartans will once again be without guard Joshua Langford, who has been out the last six games with an ankle injury. No return date has been set yet for the junior. The Spartans have gained back junior guard/forward Kyle Ahrens though, who played 12 minutes against Maryland and looked to be running the floor well.

Get ready to rumble

A chance for revenge will be on the table Thursday night for Iowa, but the Spartans have not been knocked down yet by a conference opponent this season. With both teams clicking on offense, this could be a high-scoring affair, one where we’ll have to wait and see who comes out on top.

Tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. ET and will be broadcasted nationally on Fox Sports 1.