The big question entering Iowa’s game at Michigan State was whether or not C.J. Frederick would be healthy enough to play. Sure enough, a few minutes before tip it was confirmed that the Hawkeyes’ sophomore sharpshooter would not suit up. Combine this bit of bad news with a trip to the Breslin Center, where the Hawkeyes had lost 21 of their last 22 games, and Saturday had the makings of an Iowa basketball disaster.
Thanks to Joe Wieskamp and Jack Nunge, it was far from that.
Iowa’s junior duo combined for 39 points, 18 rebounds, and nine assists as the #15 Hawkeyes (15-6, 9-5 B1G) completed a season sweep of the Spartans (10-8, 4-8 B1G) with an 88-58 victory in East Lansing. It’s the fourth time in the last 30 years that Iowa has swept Michigan State in a season series—the last occurrence coming in 2016.
Before we get into the box score particulars, if you missed this game I strongly urge you to watch a replay of it. For any Hawkeye basketball fan who has been haunted by all of the prior disastrous trips to Michigan State, especially over the last two decades, this was a cathartic and borderline absurd display of offensive excellence.
Iowa led this game 79-45 at one point. That doesn’t happen, like, ever against Tom Izzo-coached Spartan teams in the Breslin Center. In fact, the Hawkeyes’ 30-point victory today had never happened to Izzo in his career:
FINAL: Iowa 88, MSU 58. Tom Izzo's worst home loss in 26 seasons and the Spartans' second this season by 30 points.— Chris Solari (@chrissolari) February 13, 2021
Drink. It. In.
The competitive portion of this game ended at halftime as Iowa came out of the gate on fire, hitting eight threes and shooting over 53% in taking a 46-27 lead at the break. Wieskamp and Connor McCaffery (!) combined to make seven of 10 three point attempts (!!), each posting 10 points in the opening 20 minutes. Nunge did a little bit of everything early for Iowa, notching seven points, six rebounds, and three assists before the intermission.
Luka Garza had his quietest game in a long time, but Nunge filled the void down low wonderfully, erupting for a double-double on 18 points, 11 rebounds, and tossing in six assists as well. Wieskamp led all scorers with 21 points, seven boards, and three assists, while McCaffery posted his best offensive day since arriving at Iowa by hitting a career-high four threes, finishing with 16 points, two rebounds, and an assist. The junior guard entered the game averaging just 3.5 points per contest.
Garza posted eight points and eight rebounds on 3-11 shooting from the field in an uncharacteristically cold day for the likely conference and National Player of the Year, partly due to Michigan State’s defensive game plan on the big man. It should be noted, though, that Garza did miss a few open looks from underneath the basket FWIW. It was Luka’s lowest scoring performance this season, and to find the senior’s last single-digit scoring day you’d have to go back to his nine-point effort in the Hawkeyes’ 83-73 loss to San Diego State in November of 2019.
Keegan Murray, starting for the injured Frederick, added eight points and three rebounds, while Jordan Bohannon had six points and four assists. Iowa turned the ball over just five times compared to Michigan State’s eight giveaways.
Gabe Brown had 15 points and Aaron Henry added 13 points, four rebounds and two assists for the Spartans who missed 40 field goals (22/62), 15 three-point attempts (6/21), and eight free-throws (8/16) on the day. Michigan State is in serious danger of missing the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 24 years.
After making 12 threes last week in Iowa City, the Spartans missed their first seven attempts from long-range, finishing just 2/11 from beyond the arc in the first half.
Michigan State scored the first four points of the second half before the Hawkeyes put the game on ice with a 17-3 run, culminating in a Wieskamp layup to put Iowa up 63-34.
From there, the rest the of the afternoon became fairly rudimentary—the remaining question being whether or not Iowa would win this game by 30+ and they did just that.
In looking at the big picture, this is an NIT-caliber Spartans team that the Hawkeyes should dominate and they did more than that. In fact, Iowa may have taken ownership of Izzo’s soul at one point in the second half:
You LOVE to see it. pic.twitter.com/92uOSNg9Sz— Irrational Hawkeye (@IrrationalHawk) February 13, 2021
This was a rare Quad 2 win in East Lansing and, while it won’t move the needle resume-wise, it was nonetheless a very important game for the Hawkeyes to get through because their upcoming schedule is pretty nasty even by Big Ten standards.
- at #21 Wisconsin
- vs Penn State
- at #4 Ohio State
- at #3 Michigan
- vs #21 Wisconsin
Earlier in the day Iowa was ranked #13 overall by the NCAA selection committee, currently sitting as the highest #4 seed if a bracket were released today. Luckily, we still have a few more weeks until Selection Sunday and as this Hawkeyes team gets a little healthier and has opportunities against the Big Ten’s heaviest hitters, perhaps this 2-0 week will serve as the launching point into a new, much more fun late season Iowa basketball tradition.
Oh, and one more thing: Iowa won by THIRTY at Michigan State. Just thought I’d say it again.