By Mike Jones on January 24, 2019 at 8:47 pm
© Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

A stellar effort in Iowa City by the Hawkeyes.*

Their lockdown defense held the Michigan State Spartans to a very low point total.*

This allowed Iowa to jump out to a lead and win.*

* - The first half.

It truly was a tale of two halves for Iowa and Michigan State, as the Hawkeyes couldn’t hang with Sparty for 40 minutes. It started out so beautifully, as the Spartans turned the ball over 4 times in their first 5 possessions. This was a taste of what was to come for the remainder of the half, as Iowa played relentless defense and forced Michigan State into contested shots.

The problem for Iowa is that they couldn’t capitalize on the offensive side of the floor. We here at the Go Iowa Awesome Laboratory for Doing Math Good estimated that Iowa had approximately 452 shots go in and out of the hoop in the first half alone. The scientists at Oxford would tell you that this is not good, and in fact it seems a little unlucky. Despite Iowa’s stellar defense, they went cold after taking a 4-0 lead and didn’t score from 18:19 to 14:22. That’s nearly four scoreless minutes and a drought like that will cost you against a team like Michigan State.

The Hawkeyes eventually did get back on track and exchanged baskets with Sparty, taking a 35-29 lead with just over a minute remaining in the half. After a couple of Michigan State free throws, Iowa’s lead was narrowed to 35-31 and they took the four point lead into half. 

Things were good.

Things were better coming out of the half. Tyler Cook and Luka Garza went to work, giving Iowa a 39-31 lead. Nick Ward kept doing his thing but so did Cook, who came alive in the second half and was virtually unstoppable for the first five minutes. Then, around the 16-minute mark, things went sideways.

By sideways, I mean that Michigan State went on a 24-2 run over the next six or so minutes. With 16:02 remaining in the game, Iowa was leading 50-42. With 10:02 remaining in the game, Iowa was losing 66-52. That is what you might call an unfortunate series of events.

And listen, there was 10 minutes of game after that but it really didn’t matter. Iowa never got within 10 again and there was nothing redeemable aside from some Riley Till garbage time hustle. 

So what happened? Well, that defense that was so stellar in the first half disappeared in the second. Michigan State’s looks got a little easier and Nick Ward went to work scoring 21 points on 7/10 shooting and 7/7 free throws. Cassius Winston was worse news for the Hawks, scoring 23 on 6/14 shooting, including 3/5 from three. That’s probably the stat that hurts the most. After an insane shooting performance against Illinois, Iowa only went 5/24 from three, a pathetic 20%. Michigan State, on the other hand, went 8/19, a wonderful 42%.

Iowa simply wore down under the Michigan State pressure. By pressure I mean that they fouled a lot more and didn’t get called for it but Iowa did. Iowa, a team that leads the nation in free throws, only had eight free throw attempts. Michigan State had 21. CONSPIRACY. No but really it’s aggravating when they talk about the Spartans being such a “physical” team when we all know “physical” is actually just a series of uncalled fouls. 

Garza and Cook did their jobs, combining for 37 points, nine rebounds and two assists. Iowa’s guards were virtually non-existent. Jordan Bohannon scored a measly three points on SEVEN attempts. He didn’t even make it to the line once. Wieskamp wasn’t much better, scoring five points on six attempts. Moss was nearly non-existent, scoring two points on seven attempts.

Baer, as usual, was a sparkplug off the bench. In 21 minutes he scored 10 points, had three rebounds, three assists and a steal. Kriener had no points and three fouls so yeah, that’s right. 

Interesting stat: Iowa had no players with multiple turnovers. Every starter had one. That’s good against Michigan State and honestly, that’s the reason the score wasn’t a lot worse.

This was a disappointing loss. It’s yet another hyped game where Iowa filled their diaper against a Big Ten power. It sucks.

The counterpoint is that Michigan State is, as always, one of the best teams in the nation and Iowa, well, isn’t. The Hawkeyes are out of the regular season Big Ten Championship hunt and sit at 5-4 in conference. A road trip to Minneapolis to face a very weird Minnesota team looms and the Hawkeyes can either do one of two things: Carry over the disappointing Michigan State loss and start yet another New Year Collapse, or start off a great stretch of games with a win.

After the road trip to Minnesota they get Michigan at home, are at Indiana, home against Northwestern, at Rutgers, home against Maryland and Indiana, at Ohio State and home against Rutgers. They’ll be favored in half of those games and a win at The Barn could jumpstart a February winning streak. Forgive, but don’t forget this loss, Iowa fans. On to the next one.

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