The MSU mens basketball team closed out regular-season play Saturday with its fifth straight win - a 93-79 routing of Iowa on Senior Day at Breslin Center.
The win over the Hawkeyes (16-14 overall, 5-11 Big Ten) also guarantees MSU (19-10, 10-6) at least the No. 5 seed in the Big Ten Tournament that begins Thursday at Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.
Going into March, this is when you want to be playing your best basketball, said junior forward Adam Ballinger, who finished with 13 points. I think right now we are.
The game seemed to be blown open at the 7:42 mark of the first half. Sophomore point guard Marcus Taylor found freshman guard Kelvin Torbert above the rim for an alley-oop. The dunk gave MSU a 36-16 advantage.
Torberts dunk put MSU on pace for its most offensively productive first half of the season. But the Spartans could only muster another 13 points, allowing Iowa to cut the gap to 49-38 at halftime.
Torbert, who has been struggling all season, said the dunk released some of his frustration.
It felt really well just to execute that play, said Torbert, who recorded 11 points and five rebounds in the first half. We drew it up in the timeout. We knew it was open, it was just executing it.
But Torbert didnt get a chance to top off his performance because his legs taken out from underneath him while he tried for an offensive rebound two minutes into the second half. He landed on his lower back and tailbone and didnt return.
The freshman guard is expected to miss the next couple days of practice, MSU head coach Tom Izzo said.
I think its a bruise not broken, Izzo said. Its not one hell be practicing with in the next couple days. His back locked and popped out.
Hes in pain. Im hoping it gets better, but I feel worse for him than anybody because he was feeling good and doing more and more - you could see it in his eyes.
The Hawkeyes continued to shoot well in the second half and hit three consecutive triples to cut MSUs lead to 65-63 halfway through the second. But MSU managed to pull away again.
When they cut the game to two, we really showed some character, Izzo said. But you have to give them credit, too.
MSUs surge was largely thanks to Taylor, who scored five points in a row to give MSU a 70-63 advantage with 8:56 left.
The sophomore guard finished with a game and career high 34 points. His previous career high came Tuesday when he scored 32 against Ohio State.
Every shot feels good off my hands, Taylor said of his last two performances.
Walk-on guard Mat Ishbia was the only senior honored before the game. Ishbia made his first career start and finished with a career high four points, including a three in the opening minutes - only the second of his career.
He assisted on the first basket of the game, when he found Torbert open on the baseline. With 1:47 left, Ishbia added a free-throw to round out his contribution to the win.
I cant complain about it, Ishbia said. The way the crowd reacted and my teammates reacted, I couldnt ask for a better Senior Day. The guys made sure we got up by enough to get me back in and Im thankful for that.