Iowa’s Clemmons enjoys reunion at Breslin

Matt Charboneau
The Detroit News

East Lansing — There was a reunion on Thursday night at the Breslin Center, and it turned out pretty well for at least one Lansing native.

As Iowa was busy blowing out Michigan State, 76-59, it was the first time former Lansing Sexton teammates Denzel Valentine, Bryn Forbes and Anthony Clemmons had been on the same floor together in college.

It was especially sweet for Clemmons, the Iowa senior who had never beaten Michigan State in East Lansing, and he had a big part in the victory. Clemmons hit two early 3-pointers as Iowa was pulling away and finished with 13 points.

“This is a moment I’ve been waiting on for my entire life,” he said.

It was a reminder for Clemmons of the two straight state championships he won with Valentine and Forbes at Lansing Sexton in 2011 and 2012.

Until Thursday, that was the extent of his fun at the Breslin Center, a place at which Iowa had not won since 1993.

“It’s a tough place to play, the crowd is always into it and (Michigan State) feeds off the fans,” Clemmons said before the game. “They’re a tough team in general. Growing up there, I haven’t seen a lot of teams beat them (at home).”

The Hawkeyes victory in Iowa in late December was the first for Clemmons against his former teammates, and the rematch was one they were all looking forward to. It was big enough for the Big Ten Network program “The Journey” to be in town on Thursday to document the game.

“This is the highest-ranked game with the two of us together and wouldn’t you know it, it’s our senior year,” Valentine said. “So there’s gonna be a lot of emotion, a lot of great feelings. But it’s gonna be a great game.”

The great game never materialized as Forbes didn’t hit a shot and Valentine was just 5-for-12 for 14 points in his first game back in the starting lineup after injuring his knee in late December.

It was disappointing considering it was the first time all three played in the same game in East Lansing. That’s because the teams played just once last season — in Iowa City — and the first meeting this season also came at Iowa.

Forbes spent his his first two seasons at Cleveland State before transferring to Michigan State. He knew going in that Clemmons would be looking to shut him down.

“It’s like playing anybody else,” Forbes said. “We’re friends after the game. I don’t know if he knows all my tendencies, but he’s a great defender.”

Clemmons didn’t have to do much defending on Thursday as foul trouble limited Forbes to just 10 minutes.

Afterward, Iowa coach Fran McCaffery had plenty of praise for his point guards.

“We knew they were gonna come after us in the second half and we only had one turnover,” McCaffery said.

“So our play was spectacular. I thought Clemmons and (Mike) Gesell, in particular, were fabulous. We didn’t shoot a good number in the second half but we moved the ball, we got in the bonus and I think our attention to detail based on personnel was as good as it gets.”

10 straight in Big Ten

Iowa has now won 10 straight Big Ten games, dating back to last season. It’s the longest streak for the Hawkeyes since 1969-70, when they went 14-0. Included in this run are two wins over Michigan State, as well as a road win over Purdue.

Iowa is now one of just two unbeaten teams in conference play along with Indiana.

“I look at it like this,” McCaffery said. “We’re 4-0 and that’s terrific, but you know what we got coming. We’ve got 14 more, all of them difficult. It’s great to be able to go on the road and win. I know what that means in terms of RPI and things like that, but it just makes the next one tougher.”

Slam dunks

Forbes is likely quite happy to be done playing Iowa in the regular season.

Thursday’s game was only the second time this season he didn’t have a basket and his 10 minutes of action were a season low. He entered the game averaging 14.4 points a game, but in two games against the Hawkeyes, he has five total points.

“Bryn struggles when people are physical,” Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said.

… Michigan State’s 22-point halftime deficit was its largest of the season.