MSU steamrolls Iowa in 2nd half for bounce-back win
East Lansing — In the first half Saturday night, Iowa did practically nothing right.
And yet, someway, somehow, it held a lead over Michigan State.
The Spartans went from frazzled in the first 20 minutes to fierce for the final 20, with four freshmen and a sophomore taking over in a big way, to beat the Hawkeyes, 77-66, before a raucous sellout crowd at Breslin Center.
Freshman Miles Bridges again led Michigan State (15-10, 7-5 Big Ten) with 16 points, 11 rebounds and some big-time blocks, and his play is not to be diminished. But it also was some inspired effort by sophomore Matt McQuaid that got the Spartans in control halfway through the second half.
And, interestingly, during the key stretch, McQuaid didn't even score a point.
"I was just trying to find other ways to affect the game," McQuaid said. "Making those plays we gotta make."
In a three-and-a-half-minute run, McQuaid played a major role in turning a one-point lead into a 10-point lead, starting with an offensive rebound and a great-instinct shovel pass to Eron Harris to make it 42-39 Michigan State.
On the next possession, he grabbed a defensive rebound and found Cassius Winston for a 3-pointer, Winston's first points of the game.
After Iowa answered with a 3 by sophomore Nicholas Baer, McQuaid hauled down another offensive rebound at the other end, leading to back-to-back 3s by Winston, and shortly thereafter, he dished out an assist to freshman Nick Ward to make it 50-44 Michigan State.
"McQuaid, he's supposed to shoot the ball," Bridges said. "But he does a lot of energy stuff, and he does a lot to help the team win.
"That's why he's such a great aspect on the team."
The high-energy stretch continued with an Iowa charge and 3-pointer by senior Alvin Ellis III later, the lead was nine, and an irate Iowa coach Fran McCaffery called timeout, amid chants from the Izzone of, "Throw a chair! Throw a chair!"
Michigan State remained in control the rest of the game — even if it sent Iowa to the free-throw line a few too many times for Tom Izzo's liking in the final minutes — bouncing back from a demoralizing loss to Michigan earlier in the week.
The Spartans had lost five of eight coming into the game, and are projected as a bubble team for the NCAA Tournament.
MSU's highly acclaimed freshman class finally came together all at once, combining to score 53 of Michigan State's 77 points, with Ward adding 14 points on a night he was as dialed in and focused as Izzo has seen despite early foul trouble. Winston scored 12, and Josh Langford had 11 — and some emotional jumping up and down on the court, out of character for a mild-mannered guy. Izzo loved it.
"You know, I tell parents, I tell coaches, I tell everybody, I tell the media, there's a process," Izzo said. "Maybe I don't understand the process. Maybe I'm looking for too much out of those guys.
"They're getting better."
Meanwhile, McQuaid's effort came after an awful first half in which he was 2-for-8 shooting. Bridges scored 12 in the first half on 6-for-10 shooting; the rest of the team scored 19 on 7-for-21 shooting.
The Spartans trailed, 32-31, at the half, because of 12 turnovers — a heavy majority unforced — to the Hawkeyes' three. That's how Iowa led, despite shooting 35.3 percent to Michigan State's 41.9, and being outrebounded, 26-12.
Michigan State finished with 21 turnovers, which really irked Izzo, even though he was pleased about so much.
"I can't live with it," he said.
Fortunately, his defense made up for it, as Iowa shot 32.8 percent — though the Hawkeyes missed their fair share of open looks, too.
Michigan State also made up for the turnovers by outrebounding Iowa, 46-32, Bridges leading the way with 11, and sophomore Kennny Goins grabbing 10, despite still being winded from aftereffects of the flu.
Bridges had four blocks, including a mammoth swat late to put an exclamation point on the Spartans' second-half surge.
For Iowa (14-12, 6-6), freshman Tyler Cook scored 13, as did senior Peter Jok — though the latter was 0-for-5 on 3-pointers, struggling through some pain while also being well-defended by Ellis and senior Eron Harris. Freshman Cordell Pemsl scored 10, while freshman Jordan Bohannon was shut out on 0-for-8 shooting.
"I haven't seen him go 0-for-8, ever" McCaffery said. "One of those nights for him."
Iowa still has just one true road victory this season, against lowly Rutgers.
As for Michigan State, this was a welcome performance, given the demoralizing and eye-opening blowout loss at Michigan earlier in the week. The Spartans return to action Tuesday, hosting an Ohio State team it lost to on the road a month ago. They have a chance to make up ground, with three of the next four games at home.
"We just had to pick it up," Langford said. "This is a good win for us, good quality win."