Iowa City, Iowa — If you’re a stat-sheet hawk, at first glance, Iowa’s Anthony Clemmons didn’t do much that was extraordinary against Michigan State.
But if you look at the other side of the stat sheet, you see just how much he actually did in Iowa’s 83-70 victory over No. 1-ranked Michigan State on Tuesday night at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
Clemmons, who attended Lansing Sexton and graduated with MSU’s Bryn Forbes and Denzel Valentine, was given the assignment of guarding Forbes, who has been MSU’s go-to scoring option in the absence of Valentine (knee scope).
And Clemmons limited Forbes to just three points on 1-of-5 shooting.
“He did an unbelievable job on Forbes. He just took him to the cleaners,” MSU coach Tom Izzo said. “That was a great effort on his part.”
Forbes, a senior guard, came into the game averaging just over 14 points a game, second to Valentine on the team.
He scored a season-high 32 in last week’s overtime win over Oakland, and has proven to be perhaps the Spartans’ most-clutch shooter this season.
Then he faced Iowa, and Clemmons just put the clamps down.
“He’s a really solid defender,” Forbes said. “I think I could’ve had a better effort getting open and finding open shots.”
That goes for the Spartans as a whole, particularly from long range. They didn’t make a 3-pointer until well into the second half, and Forbes didn’t have a 3-pointer — despite coming into the game with 38, tops on the team.
Shutting him down wasn’t the only reason the Spartans’ lost, but it was a big one — as the Hawkeyes, who had their perfect season spoiled by the Spartans in football, returned the favor in basketball.
Give Clemmons much credit for that, even if the stat sheet doesn’t tell you to.
“I thought our homeboy did us in,” Izzo said of Clemmons, who picked up his first victory over MSU in his four years at Iowa.
These teams will meet again in short order, on Jan. 14 at Breslin Center in East Lansing.
It’s just the beginning
This was the ideal start for Iowa, which probably entered the Big Ten a little underappreciated.
There’s not much time to celebrate, though, with Purdue up next, and Michigan State again in two weeks.
“I would like to think it’s a great confidence builder,” Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said. “But we got another top-10 game Saturday.
“So hopefully, we learned lessons of how to compete, how to execute and how to not take a possession off, and we carry that over for Purdue.”
Iowa, which played one of the better nonconference schedules in the nation, was totally prepared for Michigan State’s offense, especially limiting the transition opportunities.
MSU also only had 11 assists on 27 field goals, and 16 turnovers.
Those are numbers that never popped up as the Spartans were starting the season 13-0.
“We disrupted their offense quite a bit,” McCaffery said. “We mixed the man and the zone, a little bit of pressure, and then when we had foul trouble, I thought the guys that came in really picked us up.”
Said Izzo: “That’s gonna be a team to reckon with in the Big Ten, for sure.”
No Valentine, no excuse
Izzo wanted one thing made perfectly clear.
Not having Valentine was not the reason MSU lost for the first time.
“That has nothing to do with the effort. Nothing,” Izzo said. “It had nothing to do with the effort you get.
“I ain’t a very good guy with excuses. Don’t make one for me. ... That had something to do with not making baskets, maybe, but it had nothing to do with the lack of effort we gave tonight.”
Forbes didn’t hesitate when asked about coach’s assessment.
“I do agree with that,” he said.
Valentine is expected to be out at least one more game, and maybe two.
Somehow, someway, Iowa packed Carver-Hawkeye Arena, even though so many fans were flying out of Cedar Rapids to Pasadena, California, on Tuesday for the Rose Bowl on New Year’s Day. The game was a sellout, and booming.
“The crowd was absolutely spectacular,” McCaffery said. “Couldn’t ask for more from them.”
... Izzo said he’s not worried about Tuesday’s effort issues carrying over, because they never have lingered before since he’s been the coach.
“I’m not jumping off a bridge,” he said. “I’m just really disappointed in a few guys that I thought would raise up and they didn’t.
“Maybe guys read their press clippings.”
... MSU played 14 guys in the loss, a clear indicator Izzo still is looking for the reserves who’ll step up and earn more minutes.
... Izzo now is 5-8 in Big Ten openers on the road.