Four takeaways from No. 4 men's basketball's win against Iowa
The fourth-ranked Spartans narrowly avoided catastrophe Tuesday night, but found a way to pull away from a struggling Iowa team at the Carver-Hawkeye Arena. MSU rallied with under seven minutes left to come out with a 96-93 win on the road for the Spartans’ seventh straight win.
It wasn’t pretty—in fact, it looked like an AAU game at times—but the Spartans (23-3, 11-2 Big Ten) out-mettled the Hawkeyes (12-14, 3-10).
Here are some takeaways from Tuesday night's game:
Struggles without Ward and Jackson
The Spartans clearly looked like the better team through the first five minutes, evident by their 10-2 run to start the game. Starting forwards Nick Ward and Jaren Jackson Jr. were major mismatches for Iowa’s frontcourt whenever they were in the game.
That was the problem. When they were in the game.
Ward ended as MSU’s second leading scorer (Behind guard Miles Bridges, who scored 25), with 17 points in only 12 minutes. Jackson played 19 minutes, but was able to score 11. Both were benched midway through the first half for having two fouls. Ward picked up his third foul with 18:47 to play and only played five minutes in the second half.
Ward and Jackson sat out until the Spartans needed them in the game. Ward checked in with 10:49 to play, and left the game for good after drawing his fourth foul with 6:50 to play and MSU trailing 83-76. Luckily MSU executed its game nearly flawlessly and outscored Iowa 20-11 the rest of the way to come out with a win.
Defense? What defense?
As Dan Dakich put it on ESPN’s broadcast, Iowa “Out-MSU’d MSU” down the stretch in many facets of the game. The Hawkeyes found a way to break down MSU’s defense, which led the nation in field-goal percentage defense heading into the game, holding opponents to 35.4 percent shooting.
Iowa finished shooting 52.2 percent from the floor and had five players finish in double-figure scoring. With Ward and Jackson available in limited capacities, Iowa outscored MSU 42-38 in the paint. Hawkeyes starting forward Tyler Cook scored 26 and led the charge on offense, helping Iowa outscore the Spartans 14-4 in transition.
It was an uncharacteristic defensive showing for MSU, but that’s what five games in the last 12 days can do. MSU will rest until Saturday, and it will need every bit of it to get ready for No. 3 Purdue (23-2, 12-0) at the Breslin Center.
The Spartans look tired
That’s what five games in 12 days can do. Especially for a heavily-relied on group of four sophomores and a freshman.
The Spartans look worn down. The next few days off are well needed. And much deserved.
MSU is in the longest stretch of the season: Its last two on the road, and three of its next five are away from the Breslin.
MSU is still 23-3. They’ve shown the ability to overcome double-digit deficits and have shown signs of growth since its last two losses.
But fatigue is something the Spartans have to deal with. It’s easier said than done, but the Spartans have to come out energized and ready to play.
Every other team is going through the same thing. That’s why so many top-25 teams lose to unranked opponents this time of the year.
Better hope this isn’t the team that plays Purdue on Saturday
A showing similar to this won’t go well for the Spartans on Saturday.
For a team with a goal to win a National Championship, that defensive effort won’t win the Spartans the Big Ten, let alone a chance to run the table in March.
The conference-leading Boilermakers look practically invincible and have torn their way through a perfect Big Ten schedule. But Purdue does have to host No. 14 Ohio State Wednesday.
That means one less day of rest, maybe two if Purdue hasn’t taken a day off this week, which is required by the NCAA, and a faster turnaround to prepare for MSU.
You hope a few days of rest is all the Spartans need. Saturday has the chance to look like a Final Four game if MSU comes out with pep and vigor.
A win against Purdue could cement a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. But if the same defensive effort that showed up against Iowa is the same one against Purdue, it won’t be a Final Four-type game.
It won’t even be competitive.