Michigan State coach commends Spartans on overall effort in 96-93 victory over Hawkeyes. Matt Charboneau
Iowa City, Iowa — Michigan State did it again on Tuesday night at Iowa.
The No. 4 team in the country found itself in a dogfight in the second half against a team that’s hung around the bottom half of the Big Ten standings most of the season, even trailing by eight points with eight minutes to play.
But like it has for the better part of the last couple of weeks, Michigan State found a way to win, erasing that eight-point deficit to pull out a 96-93 victory at Carver-Hawkeye Arena, the seventh straight for the Spartans, who now get ready for Saturday’s top-five matchup at home against No. 3 Purdue.
“I’m going to take a win in a tough place to play,” Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said. “I’m gonna take a win against a team that played their tail off tonight and we’re taking a day off tomorrow, cause the NCAA makes you take a day off and it’s the only time I’ll solely agree with them.
“The coaches, the players — everybody needs a day to get away and then we’ll hopefully have a little (news) conference to talk about how excited I am to have Jud’s honorary game played on Saturday against a team that’s right now is playing the best of any team in the league and maybe one the best teams in the country.”
Miles Bridges, Kenny Goins and Cassius Winston discuss victory over Hawkeyes. Matt Charboneau
That matchup with Purdue at the Breslin Center that will honor former Spartans coach Jud Heathcote was far from Michigan State’s thoughts on Tuesday, however, as it found itself battling an Iowa team that shot 52.2 percent for the game and scored 42 points in the paint.
“We’re trying to score and we ran good stuff,” Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said. “We moved the ball, we were open. We ran when we got stops and scored.”
The Spartans were able to overcome it all thanks to Miles Bridges, who scored 25 to lead Michigan State (23-3, 11-2 Big Ten). Nick Ward added 17 points in just 12 minutes on a night he was plagued with foul trouble while Joshua Langford scored 15 and Jaren Jackson Jr. had 11.
Tyler Cook scored 26 for Iowa (12-14, 3-10) while Jordan Bohannon scored 17 and Maishe Dailey added 13 points. Cordell Pemsl and Isaiah Moss had 11 each for the Hawkeyes.
“We’re not happy with what we did tonight,” Izzo said, “but we’re pretty happy where we’re at and lesser teams could have fallen tonight. That’s a positive. But we’ve got some growing up to do, too.”
There were no issues early as Michigan State started quickly, especially in the paint as Ward and Jackson controlled things, scoring 14 of the Spartans’ first 16 points. However, both picked up two fouls and played just seven minutes each.
Iowa took advantage by scoring 20 points in the paint to remain within reach of Michigan State, which led by nine at several points during the first half. The Hawkeyes tied the game at 26 following a Bohannon 3-pointer with 8:33 to play, but the Spartans responded by pushing the lead back to eight after a three-point play from Bridges gave them a 36-28 lead with 5:43 left in the first half.
Bridges extended the lead to 47-38 on a 3-pointer with 1:24 to play before Iowa cut it to 48-42 headed to halftime. The 42 points scored by the Hawkeyes were the most Michigan State has allowed in a first half this season as Iowa shot 54.5 percent (18-for-33).
“Me and Nick started good,” Jackson said, “then we went to the bench there for a while. It was a quick four, five minutes, but we tried to do our best in that little stretch.”
After a Langford 3-pointer gave Michigan State a 55-46 lead less than two minutes into the second half, the fouls continued to play a factor as Ward was whistled for his third foul and Jackson followed a couple minutes later.
Iowa took advantage, as it did in the first half, chipping away at Michigan State’s lead before finally moving ahead for the first time at 61-60 on a pair of free throws from Moss. It went back and forth the next few possessions as Iowa dominated in the paint, and after a Bohannon 3-pointer with 12:23 to play, the Hawkeyes had a 68-64 lead.
The Hawkeyes kept the pressure on and when Dailey nailed a 3-pointer from the corner with 8:06 to play, it gave Iowa an 81-73 lead.
“I feel like we wait until the point where we think we’re about to lose and that’s when we pick it up,” Bridges said. “But we can’t do that against good teams.”
It was that point the Spartans did pick it up, pulling to within 85-83 after a pair of Cassius Winston free throws, and nearly two-and-a-half minutes later, Kenny Goins rattled in a 3-pointer with 2:10 to play to put MSU up 90-89.
“Oh my God,” said Goins, who made just his third 3-pointer of the season. “It felt like two weeks (it sat on the rim), honestly.”
A Cook jump-hook put Iowa back ahead by one before Bridges gave MSU a one-point advantage with 1:02 to play with a pair of free throws. Bridges got two more with 31 seconds left and after Cook brought Iowa within a point, Langford nailed two with 6.5 seconds left to give MSU a 96-93 lead.
A desperation 3-pointer from Iowa hit off the rim at the buzzer.
“We’re learning how to fight through adversity,” Bridges said. “It’s not easy to win on the road, especially when everyone is against you and you’re down by five with two minutes left. It’s tough. But with this team we’ve got a lot of tough people, mentally tough, and we learned how to fight through adversity.”