Tom Izzo has witnessed nearly 600 games since taking the helm of the MSU basketball program. But the last time he left Carver Hawkeye Arena in Feb. 2011, he was certain the 20-point loss to Iowa was the worst performance of any team during his tenure.
This time around, he gets to leave with a smile.
After trailing for much of the night, the No. 22 Spartans (13-3 overall, 2-1 Big Ten) used a second half surge and some clutch free throw shooting to earn the 62-59 victory against Iowa (11-5, 0-3)
Sophomore guard Branden Dawson led the way with 17 points and five rebounds as one of four Spartans finishing in double figures in scoring in the winning effort. But it was junior guard Keith Appling who hit a pair of clutch free throws to seal the deal for the Spartans on the road.
“We didn’t play very good, let’s be honest about it,” Izzo said. “We made some foolish plays and we did some things that weren’t like us but boy, in that last 10 minutes, I thought Appling, Dawson and (freshman guard) Gary Harris really rose up. (Senior center) Adreian Payne did some real good things and then made some mistakes but we guarded better, we executed a little better and give Keith credit. We put the ball in his hands and he made some things happen.”
With Iowa’s leading scorer Roy Devyn Marble out of the lineup with an ankle injury, the Hawkeyes were forced to turn to guard Eric Fish in the starting lineup.
Fish made a quick 3-pointer out of the gates as part of a 7-0 run to open the game with the lead.
After a timeout by Izzo, the Spartans roared back with a 9-2 run of their own, largely a product of the energy off the bench coming from Payne. This allowed the Spartans to keep the game close in a heated road atmosphere at Carver–Hawkeye Arena.
However, it didn’t last long, as the Hawkeyes controlled the momentum and led by as much as 12 points in the half.
Before halftime, the Spartans narrowed the gap with a 12-2 run, highlighted by a defensive rebound by Dawson that turned into a Dawson layup at the other end of the floor. The Spartans went into halftime trailing 28-24.
The Hawkeyes continued to use their depth to control the lead with about 10 minutes to play in the game.
Yet the Spartans seized their first lead of the evening when junior guard Keith Appling hit a layup in transition after the midway point of the half.
After MSU held the lead for nearly five minutes, a 3-pointer by Iowa’s Zach McCabe swung the game back in the Hawkeyes’ favor with 4:23 remaining in the half.
A late foul on a 3-pointer attempt by Harris sent him to the free throw line. Harris drained all three of his shots to tie the game with a minute remaining. A breakaway dunk by Dawson once again gave the Spartans the lead with 48 seconds to play.
“It was a hell of a fist fight and we finally won one,” Izzo said. “When you win one like this on the road, it’s worth a game and a half.”