East Lansing — There was one thing Michigan State didn’t think would be a problem on Thursday night when it hosted Iowa — toughness.
It was the problem the first time the teams met, when the Hawkeyes ended a nine-game skid against the Spartans by winning at home over a Michigan State team that was without Denzel Valentine.
But he was back this time, and Michigan State coach Tom Izzo vowed his team wouldn’t have the same effort this time around.
By the time No. 16 Iowa was done with its 76-59 trouncing of No. 4 Michigan State, however, it was clear, once again, why the Hawkeyes dominated the Spartans.
“The tougher team won,” Izzo said. “That’s usually what happens.”
It was the worst home loss for Michigan State since it fell to Purdue, 67-47, on Feb. 27, 2011. It was also the first time Iowa won at the Breslin Center since 1993.
“I wish I had magical words,” Izzo said. “There will be a lot of blame tomorrow but today I’m going to give a lot of credit to Iowa. They did everything they could do. They made shots, got rebounds. When you have 13 or 14 turnovers in the first half and they get 17 points off them … the tougher team won. That’s what usually happens. That’s been a bit of my frustration.
“It’s really disappointing.”
MSU has now lost two straight to Iowa Matt Charboneau
he first minute of the game was an ominous sign as Valentine buried a 3-pointer only for the Spartans to watch Mike Gesell drive to the hoop for an easy bucket on the next trip. Then, Peter Jok nailed a deep three to give the Hawkeyes the early lead.
Michigan State (16-2, 3-2 Big Ten) pulled back ahead 7-5, but that was the last lead it would hold. Iowa went 9-for-15 from 3-point range in the first half and scored 17 points off 14 Michigan State turnovers to take a 47-25 lead into halftime.
“Our defense and attention to detail based on personnel was about as good as it gets,” Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said. “It’s not one thing. It’s rare you can put them all together in one game, but we were able to do that tonight.”
Michigan State trimmed the margin in the second half, but it never really put together much of a surge. The Spartans were just 4-for-21 from 3-point range, and even when they looked like they might be gaining some momentum, Iowa’s aggressive approach won out.
On one possession, the Hawkeyes grabbed five straight offensive rebounds.
It was that type of play that had the Spartans shaking their heads afterward.
“It’s embarrassing,” said Valentine, as he shook his head trying to remember the last time he felt his team lost the toughness battle. “For whatever reason they came ready to play like they should and had a sense of urgency. They dictated the whole game and we were on our heels the whole game.”
Valentine, who was back in the starting lineup for the first time since injuring his knee in late December, scored 14 for the Spartans but was just 5-for-12 from the field. Matt Costello managed to score 15, but it was far too little for the Spartans’ stagnant offense.
It didn’t help that Bryn Forbes was held without a basket, scoring only two points on a pair of free throws as he was in foul trouble for most of the game. He had chances in the second half to hit big shots but misfired on them all.
“It was hard to find a rhythm, but I’ve got to make those shots,” Forbes said. “I know I just have to for us to win.”
Jok scored 23 for Iowa (13-3, 4-0) while Jarrod Uthoff added 15, Anthony Clemmons scored 13 and Dom Uhl chipped in 10.
The performance impressed McCaffery, whose team hadn’t played in nine days but is now one of two unbeaten teams left in the Big Ten.
“It’s almost better you play a team of this caliber, with this reputation on the road, because you know you’re going to get every ounce of effort that you guys have,” he said. “There’s a tremendous amount of respect. You know they’ve beaten us a bunch of times in a row and they just came out ready and focused and everything you want as a coach.”