Their work here is done.
The MSU men’s basketball team put a final — though potentially discouraging — stamp on a crucial homestand Wednesday night by beating Iowa 70-63 to improve its record to 6-0 in the Big Ten and hold its lead in the conference standings.
The ball is rolling now for the Spartans to embark on a make-or-break portion of their schedule, which includes trips to some of the most imposing Big Ten venues.
As for Monday night, senior forward Raymar Morgan’s 16 points paced the Green and White, as the No. 6 Spartans (16-3 overall, 6-0 Big Ten) sharply overcame another slow start, then withstood a late Hawkeye surge.
“We’re not where we need to be,” a displeased MSU head coach Tom Izzo said afterward. “We’re 6-0; there are some other teams that have worse problems than we do. Am I looking for perfection? You’re damn right. And I’m not going to stop until we get it.”
The Spartans trailed for much of the first half until a 3-pointer came from an unlikely source in Draymond Green.
The sophomore forward caught the ball at the top of the key looking to pass, realized he was open and dropped in just his second deep ball of the season to give MSU a 20-19 lead at the 9:24 mark.
In a span of just more than a minute, the Hawkeyes (7-12, 1-5) fell victim to an MSU junior guards highlight reel — a Chris Allen alley-oop dunk, a Kalin Lucas pull-up 3-pointer and a Durrell Summers breakaway layup — as part of a 15-0 run.
In all, it amounted to a 21-4 run to end the half. It also left the Hawkeyes in the rearview mirror for good.
“It’s typical that they were in control,” Iowa head coach Todd Lickliter said. “I’m sure there was a let-up on their part, but to our guys’ credit, they continued to fight. We got in striking range, although you’ve got to hand it to them that when they did, they made a big shot.”
Summers, whose stat line has been mostly unpredictable this year, dropped 12 in the first half while Green tallied nine points and 11 rebounds. Though they shot just 11-for-17 from the free-throw line, the Spartans’ bench outscored Iowa’s 19-3.
“We can do a lot better job,” Morgan said. “We just had times defensively where we weren’t that good and to let Iowa back in the game on that kind of run is inexcusable.”
The Spartans will head to Minnesota on Saturday to begin their toughest leg of the season. Of the next eight games, only two are at home — against preseason top-5 Purdue and Big Ten surprise Northwestern.
“Minnesota gave us everything we wanted at home,” Izzo said of the Spartans’ 60-53 win on Jan. 13. “If we’ve got guys who are crazy enough to be comfortable with that … then we’ll really get a whooping. If we got one of those teams with three or four of your best players are juniors or seniors and you’ve got to get whooped to figure out where you are, then you’ve got problems.”