Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo questions a call against his team during the second half of Tuesday's game. (Charlie Neibergall / Associated Press)
Iowa City, Iowa — There were plenty of story lines in Michigan State’s victory at Iowa on Tuesday night.
Russell Byrd was the unsung hero, hitting a 3-pointer in overtime; Keith Appling battled through a wrist injury; Matt Costello had a career night; and Travis Trice discovered his shooting touch.
But what might have been most impressive in the overtime victory was the fact the Spartans held the Hawkeyes — the top scoring team in the Big Ten — more than 15 points below their average. And with the game in the balance, Iowa went 14:50 without a field goal.
“That is what won us the game,” Byrd said. “They sure as heck defended us. Give credit to them because they played great defense, as well. But that's how we win games at Michigan State, with defense and rebounding.”
The rebounding was even, but it was the defense that was superb.
Iowa’s Zach McCabe hit a 3-pointer with 9:56 to play in regulation, and the next Hawkeyes basket came with six seconds to play — in overtime. Iowa scored 19 points after McCabe’s 3-pointer, and 17 came from the free-throw line.
It was even more impressive considering some of the lineups the Spartans were forced to employ because of a combination of missing players — Adreian Payne and Branden Dawson were out — and mounting foul trouble.
“I think it was good,” Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said. “I’m not sure it was great and we fouled too much, I guess. But we started switching things, and we just had so many bizarre lineups in there, it almost worked to our advantage because we started switching everything.”
And it was on the defensive end where Gary Harris proved he is far from a one-dimensional player. He struggled much of the game on the offensive end and was held to nine points, the first time he did not score in double figures all season.
But he did have six rebounds, four assists and a block in the final minutes of regulation.
“Give them credit because they did a hell of a job on Harris,” Izzo said. “But we asked Gary to make some passes, we put the ball in his hands because we couldn’t get him the ball of the screens, and we asked Gary to rebound more. He gets six rebounds and four assists. Gary is still our best player; they just did a good job on him.”
Appling's injury better
Appling continues to be bothered by a sore right wrist, but intense therapy and rest allowed him to have a fairly effective game against Iowa, going 3-for-6 from 3-point range, the biggest coming in overtime to give the Spartans a one-point lead.
“We rested it in practice,” Appling said, “and did a lot of rehab after the (Michigan) game.”
The senior said the wrist was feeling much better, even as he had it in a splint after the game and missed two free throws in the final seconds of overtime that allowed Iowa a final shot that could have tied the game.
“It is feeling a lot better,” he said with a smile, “despite missing those two free throws.”
The Big Ten announced on Wednesday Michigan State’s game at home against Penn State on Feb. 6 will be televised on ESPN2. Tip-off is at 9 p.m.