The Spartans prevail over the Hawkeyes, 66-52.
Hard as it may to believe after Iowa’s 10-minute field goal drought to start the game, the Hawkeyes actually had a higher shooting percentage for the game than MSU did: 46.5% vs. 39.1%. The three Spartan point guards struggled to score in this game, making just 9 of 28 FG attempts (32.1%).
But a positive turnover margin covers over a multitude of sins. MSU turned it over just 5 times in 57 possessions (8.8% !!!), while Iowa coughed it up 16 times (28.1%). Even when the shots weren’t falling for the Spartans, they ran their offense without getting flustered and generated quality looks at the basket.
MSU also showed excellent effort on the offensive glass against the 2nd best defensive rebounding team in the league. They pulled down 17 of 37 offensive rebounding opportunities (45.9%). Naymick led the way with 6 offensive boards.
The combination of turnover margin and offensive rebounds resulted in 21 more FG attempts for MSU than for Iowa. The mark of a good team is winning when the shots aren’t dropping. And this team is looking like a good team again–at home, at least.
Michigan State could have and should have won by more than 14 points today, but I’m going to chalk the game up as a success in terms of maintaining confidence and momentum going into the closing stretch of conference play. Getting out to a 20-1 lead is something of a mixed blessing. MSU didn’t lose focus entirely at any point, but I think they let up just a tad on defense down the stretch, allowing Iowa to score some cheap points in the paint. Cyrus Tate scored half of Iowa’s points, with 26 points on 10-13 shooting.
Some individual player numbers from the box score:
- Morgan had to sit early due to foul trouble, but again showed he’s regaining his offensive rhythm. He scored 14 points in the second half and made all 6 of his FG attempts and all 4 of his FT attempts for the game.
- Neitzel was a bit more aggressive in looking for his shot today. After 9 early points, though, the shots weren’t falling. He finished with 12 points on 4-15 shooting. It’s important he keeps shooting, though, given that it sets up other aspects of the half-court offense. He did finish today with 5 assists vs. zero turnovers.
- Izzo is obviously making a concerted effort to get Gray more touches on offense. He finished with 9 points on 3-5 FG shooting. This is preferable to keeping him in the doghouse, as MSU is going to need more than just Suton and Naymick in the paint down the stretch.
Big picture stat: Tom Izzo now has 300 wins in 13 seasons. That’s 23 wins per season. Prior to Izzo’s tenure, Michigan State had a total of just 8 seasons in which they reached 20 wins, let alone averaged that number. So three cheers for Tom Izzo–the greatest single figure in the 100+ year history of Michigan State basketball.
Next up is a trip to Madison Thursday night (9:00, ESPN2). This is our only shot at the nefarious Badgers this season (barring a conference tournament match-up). The game represents a major opportunity for MSU to make a statement about its ability to regains its mojo and be a contender going into tournament play.
First, Wisconsin has to visit the Buckeyes tomorrow afternoon (4:00, CBS), in a match-up of the league’s two best defensive teams. It’s a huge game for both teams. Wisconsin needs a win to stay tied in the race for the conference crown. Ohio State needs to triumph to offset last weekend’s loss to Michigan on their NCAA tournament resume. Kenpom forecasts a 60-57 Badger win.