MICHIGAN STATE 96, IOWA 93: DOWN SWINGING

By Adam Jacobi on February 6, 2018 at 11:07 pm
True fighters hug.

© Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

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Tyler Cook led all scorers with 26 points, and Iowa gave No. 4 Michigan State another heavyweight battle under the lights at Carver-Hawkeye Arena before Sparty came away with a late 96-93 victory. Nicholas Baer had one last shot at tying the game from halfcourt as the buzzer sounded, but alas...

In a familiar script, Iowa struggled defensively in the first half, and was lucky to be as close as 48-42 at the break. The Hawkeyes started racking up fouls on MSU's bigs early and often in the second half, and Cook got busy. Iowa took the lead at 61-60, then stretched it as far as 81-73 on a Maishe Dailey three-pointer with eight minutes left. The CHA crowd was delirious — kudos to whoever spiked the Metamucil on the way over from Oaknoll — and even with MSU's inevitable rally the game was up for grabs until, quite literally, the final horn.

And yet... and yet...

...look. I didn't want to say anything at the time, because real-time pessimists are the worst and there's no such thing as I-told-you-so points that you get to cash in, but it never felt like Michigan State was going to lose that game, did it? It was like (nearly) every time Iowa faced those Jim Tressel OSU teams: sure, the score may be close, and Iowa might even be ahead. But every single time Sparty needed a play down the stretch, it got it. The Hawkeyes worked their asses off. The Spartans just executed in response. That's what it looks like when a more talented team wins.

That's not to say that there isn't a great deal to be proud of, or to be excited about, or to build on. Jordan Bohannon played out of his mind again, finishing with 17 points including 5-for-8 shooting from downtown, plus a team-high six assists, five rebounds and no turnovers. Yes, he struggled to create his own shot with about a minute left, which led to Michigan State taking the lead (for good) on the ensuing runout, but that's one bad play at a bad time in an otherwise outstanding game. His plantar fasciitis appears to finally be improving, and hopefully we can discontinue the tired exercise of wondering if Bohannon is A True Point Guard (hint: if he's not, then Iowa has had like five "point guards" since Ralph Miller left). Otherwise, we go back to every game or every play being a referendum on Bohannon — with, mind you, no alternative — and that's just exhausting.

Dailey was the team's third-leading scorer, with 13 points on 5-for-7 shooting (3-for-5 for 3). He's not a dangerous shot creator, of course, but he's a great safety valve to have on offense and he's got the physical skills to round into a good defender. I'm not sure any Iowa defenders merited much credit giving up 96 points in regulation to the Spartans, but as with so many of his teammates, the potential is there with Dailey.

Anyway, it's a shame the game didn't turn the other way, that even one of Miles Bridges' ridiculous layups didn't go in, or that Iowa's offense had found a way to make it work in the closing minutes instead of playing stall-ball or whatever you want to call that nightmare of a set. If Fran McCaffery and the players can figure out how to bottle up that effort and bring it out against everyone else in the Big Ten, we're not sitting here lamenting Iowa's 3-10 conference record. Alas.

Good fight anyway. Go Iowa Awesome.

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