Wednesday, January 19, 2022

COLUMN: MSU shoots itself back into Big Ten conversation following comeback victory against Iowa

January 8, 2015

MSU has undoubtedly struggled at times this season and some have questioned the team's legitimacy, but after blowing by Iowa with a second half offensive explosion, MSU has shot its way right back into the conversation in the Big Ten.

Although the conference season is just a few games in, MSU’s victory over the Hawkeyes was an enormous one. After Iowa used a 27-10 run to close the first half, MSU looked helpless and in store for a long night.

The Spartans outscored Iowa 47-22 in the second half behind a barrage of three-pointers from senior guard Travis Trice. With the 75-61 win, MSU (11-5 overall, 2-1 Big Ten) gained a crucial road victory in what appears to be a wide-open conference race.

No. 4 Wisconsin is now the only undefeated team left in the league after fending off Purdue for a seven point win on Wednesday night.

Iowa was the only other undefeated team in the conference, after just two games nonetheless, but in losing to MSU, the Hawkeyes became the sixth team with a 2-1 record.

Although league play is still very young, some of the early results hint at a chaotic finish.

No. 11 Maryland looked to be the second-best team in the league for a while and perhaps still does, but after losing to an unranked Illinois team playing without its best player in senior guard Rayvonte Rice, the Terrapins have some question marks, especially on the offensive end.

Ohio State, Purdue, Michigan, and Indiana all appear capable of competing in the league and beating each other up along the way.

The message of all of this is that despite a conference opening loss to Maryland, MSU is very much in the hunt and a legitimate threat to contend in the Big Ten. It might appear that the Spartans are having a down year, but the pieces are in place and with the rotation starting to develop, MSU is in a good position moving forward.

With Wisconsin establishing itself as the Big Ten’s top team and no clear second best team at this point, MSU will need to continue to take advantage of winning games on the road. Winning at Iowa is arguably the Spartans’ most important win of the year, especially against an experienced Hawkeye team.

Before the Iowa game, MSU was third in the conference in scoring defense, allowing 60.1 points per game. The Spartans also had the top rebounding margin (+8.3 rebounds per game) in the conference.

The defense and rebounding may keep MSU in games all year long, but possibly the most important factor in MSU’s journey to the top of the league is three-point shooting.

This was on full display against Iowa, as the Spartans made 71 percent of their threes and flipped the script on the Hawkeyes in the second half. MSU is living and dying by the three this season, and if the Spartans are to finish near the top of the conference standings, efficient shooting from distance will be key.

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