After his best night of the season, graduate student guard Joshua Langford had the look to tie it against the No. 8 Iowa Hawkeyes. The clock went down with one minute remaining, but in a similar 2020-21 MSU offense fashion, it didn’t connect.
“I just keep playing Josh Langford more minutes than he can play," Head Coach Tom Izzo said. "Then he misses that six-footer and doesn’t guard at the end and that’s my fault, that’s not his fault, it’s running out of bodies.”
MSU dropped their fourth straight Big Ten matchup on Tuesday, falling to Iowa, 84-78. The Spartans are now 2-7 in conference play.
It was a battle of two teams thirsty for a win. MSU, sitting at 2-6 in the conference before and on a three-game losing stint. Iowa dropping to unranked Indiana and No. 12 Illinois just days before.
“It’s tough, especially when we had so many spurts in the game where we were playing really well," Langford said. "Give credit to Iowa; they are a great team, but at the end of the day I still think we kind of shot ourselves in the foot.”
The first half started poetically for MSU.
First, it was Aaron Henry, next Langford, then Foster Loyer, Joey Hauser and Rocket Watts all pulled up to the perimeter to start MSU on 6-of-6 shooting from the three.
With the eighth different starting lineup in the last 15 games, MSU came out hot. The Spartans made four of their first five shots in a much more efficient offensive start than the team has shown recently.
Henry, who led the Spartans with 24 points, extended the Spartan lead to double digits in the first half. He grabbed an offensive rebound from his own missed shot and put it back up for a layup with 14:09 left in the first half, giving him 10 points at that point in the game.
But the most efficient offense in the Big Ten didn’t slow down.
Despite shooting just 29.4% from the three in the first half — a percentage that MSU doubled going 41.4% from the perimeter in the game — Iowa crept in on MSU’s lead by drawing fouls and getting to the line. Iowa scored 13 of their 48 first-half points from free throws.
Six of MSU’s players entered the second half with two fouls tallied up, putting Izzo on thin ice in the second half.
“I thought there were some ridiculous calls," Izzo said. "I don’t say that very often, but I’m going to say it."
Marcus Bingham Jr. fouled out with 1:36 remaining after posing an impressive performance against Luka Garza for the Spartans. Iowa also made up for their deficit from the three by scoring 42 points in the paint compared to MSU’s 24. The Spartans struggled all game attempting to contain Iowa in the interior.
A late first-half foul on Langford gave Iowa two shots from the line that extended the Hawkeye lead to 48-43 entering halftime.
MSU lead the battle of the boards early, collecting 42 total, including 20 on the offensive glass to create the opportunity for 28 second-chance points.
The Spartans started the second half cold before Langford put down a three from the top. From there the Spartans would regroup and take a 12-2 run to take a 61-59 lead.
Iowa stayed competitive and regained a lead thanks to a 6-0 run and 27-point performance by Garza.
Trailing by nine with three minutes left, MSU desperately needed an answer against the highest-scoring offense in the Big Ten.
Out of a timeout, Hauser battled through the paint to put up a layup and draw a foul from Garza. Bingham found an answer for Garza on the other end, giving the Spartans the opportunity to bring it to a one-possession game.
But the Spartans couldn't connect as they had earlier on offense, dropping one of their most hard-fought battles of the season.
MSU is now 8-7 on the season and five games under .500 in league play. The Spartans will now turn to their home game against Nebraska at 6:30 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 6. Fans can watch the game on the Big Ten Network.
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