Saturday, July 24, 2021

Know Thy Enemy: No. 8 Iowa and MSU clash in Iowa City

February 2, 2021
<p>Iowa center Luka Garza (5) catches a pass from Iowa guard Joe Toussaint (1) on Feb. 25, 2020.</p>

Iowa center Luka Garza (5) catches a pass from Iowa guard Joe Toussaint (1) on Feb. 25, 2020.

Photo by Matt Zubik | The State News

Know Thy Enemy is a weekly Q&A where the perspective changes from the eyes of The State News to the eyes of the student newspaper of Michigan State basketball's opponent. State News sports editor Joe Dandron spoke with Robert Read of The Daily Iowan ahead of MSU and Iowa's matchup on Feb. 2.

Michigan State is reeling.

Offensively, the struggles continue for the Spartans.

Head Coach Tom Izzo and company are coming off a 79-62 loss to Ohio State on the road.

Iowa is struggling in its last two games and is missing starting guard C.J. Fredrick, the Hawkeyes have dropped their last two games to Indiana and a good Illinois team.

This week, The State News spoke with The Daily Iowan sportswriter Robert Read to get an insider's perspective on what exactly the Hawkeyes will bring Tuesday evening.

Q: Iowa dropped a good game against Illinois, loses to Indiana before that. The Hawkeyes are trying to get back on track. What needs to happen for Iowa to do so?

A: I kind of addressed this in one of my postgame columns after the Illinois game, dropping two straight games in the Big Ten isn't ideal. Especially for Iowa, a team that's going for its first regular-season championship in decades. But it almost seems inevitable in the Big Ten this year with how good it is (losing games) and just looking at college basketball as a whole, I want to say like it was close to 10 ranked teams lost on Saturday. It's just been that kind of season in the Big Ten specifically but in men's college basketball as a whole. Getting back on track, I mean, there were a lot of weird things in both of those two losses.

The Indiana game: Not scoring for 11-plus minutes in the second half, not scoring a field goal that is, Jordan Bohannon, shooting 0-of-9 from the floor ... kind of contributed in that game.

Against Illinois, Iowa didn't shoot a free-throw for the last 10 or so minutes of that second half, which is really weird with how physical that game was. Luka (Garza) was in foul trouble. He's never in foul trouble. ... With some better late-game execution they can send that game to overtime or maybe win it. ... I really don't think it's anything too specific that needs to be fixed going forward.

Q: Losing Fredrick, I saw your column, a guy who was a starter last year, was a starting guard this year. They (Iowa) do have a deep rotation of guards, but losing Fredrick, how does that hurt Iowa?

A: As you mentioned, last year, Fredrick started right away and led the Big Ten in 3-point percentage and this year he's knocking down half his shots from 3-point range. ... You definitely can tell, especially against Indiana, when he was out in the second half, Bohannon was cold from deep, (Joe) Wieskamp wasn't as aggressive as he usually is. Indiana was just clamping down on Garza in the post, they worked stressing getting out to the perimeter as much (as they could). Iowa's really got, three sharpshooters, in Bohannon, Wieskamp and Fredrick. One or two of them are in the game, making their shots consistently, it (becomes) really tough to guard Iowa. It's tough to guard Iowa when it's just Garza, but when you have some of those guys on the perimeter making 3s it really gets close to impossible.

Defensively it becomes a really big loss too, and he would've really come in handy for Iowa against Illinois because he is one of their better perimeter defenders.

With him out they've kind of gone with a bigger lineup. They inserted freshman forward Keegan Murray into the starting lineup, the 6-foot-8 freshman. ... I think he'll only improve as a starter. He's definitely a guy who will need to step up if Fredrick is going to be out for an extended period.

Q: I want to touch on Garza, obviously he's averaging 26.4 points a game, 9 rebounds (per game) just about. In my opinion the national player of the year. Not many guys can do what he does on any given night. So, how can a team like MSU and how have teams tried to slow him down?

A: I think the best two examples this year have been North Carolina and Illinois. (Against) North Carolina, Garza still got his. But the really talented and very large North Carolina frontcourt did a good job of double-teaming him, they have plenty of guys that could, you know, be a little physical when Garza got into the paint. I think Garza got close to fouling most of them out, which is pretty impressive. They did a good job of being physical with him and rotating bigs and then obviously Illinois with (Kofi) Cockburn — that's a good matchup for them to have.

They didn't double Garza as much as most other teams did. Cockburn really did a solid job defensively. When Luka wasn't in foul trouble and they were matching up one-on-one, I think he was clearly winning that matchup.

It's a good thing I'm not a coach that has to come up with these game plans to try and guard Luka Garza because, at this point, you have to bring double teams. You need an elite inside man to guard Garza one-on-one and then it's a tall task because, between his footwork and hands in the post, he gets a shot off in almost any way you need him to.

Good luck to Tom Izzo this week.

Q: Final question: What is your prediction and why?

A: I predicted a close Iowa win over Michigan State (in football) and so much for that. That was still one of the weirder games I watched last season. But I think Iowa gets back in the win column this time, even if it's not a typical Tom Izzo Michigan State team, it's a team Iowa hasn't beaten in four or five years. I think after two tough losses, coming back home, a team like that (where) your trying to get over the hump. I think it's a good situation for Iowa to do just that. Score prediction? I never land my score predictions.

I don't want to give MSU credit for too many points.

I'll take Iowa.

Score prediction: Iowa 77, Michigan State 55

We are going to see angry Luka.

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