Spartans look to rebound against rebuilding Hawkeyes

COLUMBUS OH - FEBRUARY 15: Mike Kebler #20 and Kalin Lucas #1 both of the Michigan State Spartans celebrate after a basket during the first half against the Ohio State Buckeyes on February 15 2011 at Value City Arena in Columbus Ohio. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

Date: March 2, 2011

Time: 6:30 ET

TV: Big Ten Network

After suffering a humbling loss at the hands of #6 Purdue on Sunday, the Michigan State Spartans (16-12, 8-8) are back in action on Wednesday night as the host the Iowa Hawkeyes on Senior Night at the Breslin Center. There are three seniors, Mike Kebler, Kalin Lucas, and Durrell Summers, on the Spartans roster but the latter two have had a major role in Michigan State's tremendous success over the past 4 years. However, the Spartans are currently on the bubble and predicted as a 10 seed in the latest Bracketology by ESPN. A home loss and subsequent season sweep by the Iowa Hawkeyes (10-18, 3-13) would be very damaging, if not fatal, to the Spartans tournament bid.

In the first meeting of the year in February, Iowa completely dominated Michigan State and won 72-52. The Hawks ambushed the Spartans, outscoring them 30-8 to start the game, coasting in the second half to a convincing win and the first Iowa win over Michigan State since a 43-36 win in the 2007-2008 season. After the disappointing 20 point loss, Tom Izzo said, "That was the worst performance of a team since I've been at Michigan State." Since that thrashing, MSU has been 3-3; they have beaten Penn State, Illinois, and Minnesota while losing to the top 3 of the conference, Wisconsin, Ohio State, and Purdue.

The victory over Michigan State in their first matchup this season has been the biggest win of Fran McCaffery's inaugural Big Ten campaign and is the only conference win that is not against fellow cellar-dweller Indiana. Even though Iowa has lost their last five games, they have been competitive in a majority of their losses, suffering three point overtime home defeats to Wisconsin and Michigan and losing another three point contest at Northwestern. Unfortunately for Hawkeye fans, Iowa has been considerably less competitive on the road, with double digit losses in 6 of their 8 Big 10 road games. Even though they are struggling in the Big Ten, there have been bright spots in Iowa City. One of, if not the biggest, bright spot has been the play of junior PG Bryce Cartwright. According to Kenpom, 38.8% of Iowa baskets end in a Cartwright assist when he is on the floor, which is 11th highest in the country.

Keys to the Game

Iowa:

Hit the Boards: Even though Iowa dominated the first meeting, they did give up 13 offensive rebounds. Give Michigan State 13 additional chances this time around and the Spartans will more than likely make you pay.

Keep Melsahn Basabe out of Foul Trouble: The freshman can be a very tough matchup when on the floor and if he has early foul trouble, a thin frontline bench will have to play significant minutes against a very physical Spartan team.

Keep Kalin Lucas a Scorer, Not a Distributor: Kalin Lucas is a very prolific scorer but the Spartan offense is much more dynamic when he can get the whole team involved. Lucas had 17 points and 0 assists in the first matchup against Iowa.

Michigan State

Start Fast: In the game in Iowa City, the Spartans started extremely flat and before they knew it, they were down 22. A fast start at home will allow them to play according to their gameplan and put immense pressure on Iowa.

Make Perimeter Shots: When a team plays Iowa, there will be chances to hit open shots.  Michigan State shot 4-18 (22%) from 3 in the matchup in Iowa City. To win the game , Michigan State will have to take better advantage of the open looks they get.

Offensive Balance: As mentioned earlier, Kalin Lucas failed to have an assist in the first matchup. If Lucas can get the rest of the team involved, the Spartans become even tougher to defend.

Prediction

Iowa has not beaten Michigan State in East Lansing since in 1993 and it would be a huge shock if that changed anytime soon. Expect the Hawks to keep it close for 20-25 minutes before the Spartans exert their will on the game and get a big Senior Night win as they try to make the NCAA Tournament.

Michigan State 75, Iowa 61

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