Iowa coach Fran McCaffery may really have something. Iowa is 4-0 in the Big Ten after beating Michigan State last night. That makes two wins against the Spartans, one against Purdue, and another over a pesky Nebraska squad. The Hawkeyes have a date with Maryland and two games against a surging Michigan team, but the road is pretty clear for them the rest of the way.
Before we get too far ahead of ourselves, let's take a closer look at the game of the night.
Game of the Night: Iowa Hawkeyes 76, Michigan State Spartans 59
Michigan State was never really in the game. They led by 3 with 19:52 to go in the first half; that would be their largest lead. Otherwise, Iowa led for just under 38 minutes, and controlled the pace and tempo.
In the first half, the Hawkeyes shot 51 percent, and hit nine threes. (Jarrod Uthoff hit a three in the first half from what can only be described as Steph Curry range.) It's pretty easy to control pace and tempo, when shots are falling. The Iowa defense was also frisky, forcing Michigan State into 16 turnovers for the game, but most were in the first half when the lead swelled.
Iowa led 47-25 at the half, which is insane. They were on the road, in a tough environment, and Michigan State was theoretically playing at full strength, getting Denzel Valentine back in the prior game against Penn State. Valentine played 37 minutes, scored 15 points and had four rebounds and five assists. His all-around game was nice, but the Spartans didn't defend particularly well in the first half, nor did they protect the ball. If not a three, Iowa had plenty of run outs, and for the game outscored Michigan State 17-3 on points off turnovers.
The Spartans won the second half (34-29), but not by enough. It's something of a positive that they responded in the second half, and played with effort. Iowa cooled off a ton in the last 20 minutes, but Michigan State never found their offensive rhythm. Perhaps it's getting used to having their leading scorer and main offensive creator back in the lineup.
Matt Costello, the only other Spartan in double-figures, finished with 15. Meanwhile, Iowa got pretty balanced scoring. Four guys finished with more than 10 points. Peter Jok, who was absolutely tremendous attacking the basket, had 23 on 8-of-13 shooting. Jarrod Uthoff finished with 15 points and 10 rebounds.
Michigan State falls to 16-2, 3-2 in the Big Ten. Iowa improves to 13-3 overall and 4-0 in the conference, moving into a tie for first with Indiana.
Iowa has swept the season series against Michigan State. Anyone who thought the first win against the Spartans was a fluke because Valentine was out, should check themselves. Iowa is clearly for real and making a big play for the Big Ten regular season title. Most thought Michigan State or Maryland would jostle. Instead, it's Iowa and Indiana at 4-0 with Michigan and Ohio State lurking.
Still, there's a lot of basketball left. Where does this leave Michigan State with two Big Ten losses? Well, they need help obviously to win the regular season title. The Spartans play Maryland, Indiana, Michigan and Purdue one time in their upcoming Big Ten schedule. I'm sure most are thinking that Michigan State builds for March and that's it, which may be the case again. But, Iowa exposed their flatness tonight, and completely dominated what everyone thought would be a tough battle.