Full disclosure right off the top, I didn't expect THIS. Even with my outlandish homer pick of Iowa by four in yesterdays "Roundtable", my confidence level was hovering right around last night's Spartans three point percentage. And how could it not be? Look at the history that was at play Thursday night: Iowa hasn't swept the series against the Spartans since 1993. They haven't won in the Breslin Center since 1993 -- aka before Tom Izzo was the head coach. Iowa hasn't been 4-0 in Big Ten play since the 1998-99 season.
That's a ton of bad karma.
Bad karma that was exorcised with each and every one of their 76 points.
And here we are, together, a society living in a world where the Iowa basketball team is undefeated in conference play (13-3 overall with their three losses coming by 12 total points), 6-0 since their disappointing, if not life reducing loss to Iowa State, the first team to beat the same Top-5 team by 10 or more points since Duke and Kentucky in 1965, and currently No. 4 in KenPom's Basketball Ratings:
What. A. Time. To. Be. Alive.
In terms of the actual game play last night, I'm honestly still in shock. Iowa, for the second time this season, came out of the gates and owned Michigan State.
The first couple of minutes were rocky. Denzel Valentine ushered in the scoring by splashing a looooong three and after trading some quick blows to the body from both the Hawkeyes and Spartans, a small spark by an Iowa senior (go figure) turned into an all out forest fire.
It turns out that it wasn't the senior we all expected.
In fact it was Anthony Clemmons, who kick started the Hawkeyes offensive storm -- after Mike Gesell nabbed two quick fouls -- by gutting the Michigan State defense for a quick five points on a layup and the first of his two made three pointers for the game. This gave Iowa a 10-7 lead... A lead they would never squander the rest of the game.
Not to be outdone, Dom Uhl (who finished the game with 10 points, five rebounds and one assist), ramped up his pistons and scored seven straight points there after, including two depleting put backs and a three pointer. From that moment on, it was off to the races.
Quick note on Uhl: For a kid that "only played one season of basketball in the United States before starting college ball", he continues to get better and better with each and every game. He's a force on defense, using his great length and tremendous athletic ability to lock down three positions (if not four). He never stops hustling and if I had to guess, he would have to be a top ten conference player in "possessions kept alive" with his propensity to grab, tip and slap at his teams missed shots. He just does so many things that don't "get the girls", but are crucial to for a team to continue winning like this. I'm extremely excited to watch him mature.
But back to the unstoppable force that was the Hawkeyes offense. After Uhl's seven point thrust, Peter Jok decided to have a three point contest with some of his friends in black and yellow, all at the Spartans expense:
Iowa poured in six three's the rest of the half, led by Peter Jok, the in game definiition of a fire emoji -- who piled up 23 points, 3 rebounds, one assist and two steals. The amount of space he was gathering off of screens, the pump he had in his legs and the flick of his wrist was the best I've seen from him all season. The dude was locked in that it was shocking when he missed. Just ask Tom Izzo, who felt every feeling but shock during the game:
As for your future Big Ten Player of the Year, Jarrod Uthoff, he recorded yet another double-double, finishing the contest with 15 points, 10 rebounds, one steal and two blocks -- one of which came against Denzel Valentine early in the second half that shot me out of my seat in excitement. If this kid isn't a first round NBA talent, I don't know what is.
Defensively, Fran McCaffery's squad swarmed and switched and pressured the hell out of Michigan State, forcing 16 turnovers (which accounted for 17 points). McCaffery has finally built the perfect, über athletic, ultra lengthy team together that fits what he likes to do defensively. Almost every player on this roster can defend a multitude of positions which allows for the defense to switch with very few repercussions. And it was that game plan that worked to perfection against the Spartans. Every time one of Michigan State's talented wing players tried to turn a corner, they were cut off by the switch and forced into tough shots all night long. There was a period where the Hawkeyes looked like the basketball version of Remember the Titans "WE WILL BLITZ ALL NIGHT" defense. Sparty couldn't pass or dribble without throwing it away.
Iowa's defensive versatility really was THAT astounding all night long. Even in the second half with multiple mini Michigan State runs, the Hawkeyes buckled down and squeezed.
Call it what you will -- as I'm sure some of you might -- but Iowa dominated the Spartans for the second time this season and I know this one felt even better than the first. It was the best all around, team performance I've seen in my lifetime, especially when you take in all of the factors and history. You could just see that the nine day lay off gave the Hawkeyes time to soak up all of the "FLUKE" headlines, hear all of the naysayers talk about the "Denzel Valentine" factor and boy did they used it as jet fuel.
And they walked right into the middle of the damn Izzone and made it a point to not only lay it to a team that doesn't get beat this way, but to prove to the rest of the conference that they are not only a contender, but the team to beat.
It just so happens that this dominating performance didn't just put the conference on blast, but the entire college basketball world.
PLAY THE POLKA!