'Like an ambush': Spartans run off the floor against No. 25 Hawkeyes

Matt Charboneau
The Detroit News

Iowa City, Iowa – It’s starting to become difficult to come up with ways to describe Michigan State these days.

After Tuesday night’s loss to Iowa, another clunker that saw the Spartans get run off the court, 86-60, and lose their fifth in the last six games, there were several shots at labeling what took place at a raucous Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

“It felt more like an ambush,” Michigan State coach Tom Izzo offered.

Junior captain Malik Hall simply said it was, “embarrassing.”

Yes, it was both as Michigan State scored the first two points of the game then promptly gave up a 13-2 run that flipped control of the game before most of the fans had a chance to settle in. It was more of the same from there as Iowa buried 12 3-pointers and got 28 points from Keegan Murray.

It was so bad, the fans at Carver-Hawkeye serenaded the Spartans with “N-I-T” chants with more than five minutes to play.

“I think both sides of the ball, we weren't that good,” Hall said. “We couldn't make any shots. We couldn’t stop anybody from making shots and that's part of the issue defensively. I think we need to do a better job communicating and we’ve got to take things a little bit more personal. I’m speaking as a whole team. I take blame for that, too. We’ve got to be better.”

BOX SCORE: Iowa 86, Michigan State 60

Hall did his part, scoring 17 points to lead Michigan State (18-9, 9-7 Big Ten). But that was about it for a team that thought it found something Saturday when it nearly rallied to beat Illinois at home, scoring 52 second-half points before just coming up short.

It turns out, that 20 minutes of play might have been the exception in a season that is quickly spiraling out of control.

The Spartans’ two wing players – Max Christie and Gabe Brown – combined to shoot 2-for-18 with Brown missing all seven of his shots. And while Michigan State grabbed 14 offensive rebounds, it surrendered 10 to the Hawkeyes, who got 14 second-chance points.

More: Detroit News Big Ten Basketball Power Rankings

Not that it mattered much as the Hawkeyes (19-9, 9-7) were busy lighting it up against a Michigan State team that entered the game as the top 3-point defense in the Big Ten. Jordan Bohannon and Kris Murray, who each scored 11 points, both hit three triples while Keegan Murray and Connor McCaffery each hit a pair.

Former Iowa player, now with the Detroit Pistons, Luka Garza speaks at his jersey number retirement ceremony during halftime.

“As much as I was disappointed at times in our offense – I thought we got good enough shots,” Izzo said. “We just didn't guard tonight. We lead the league in 3-point field goal defense, and tonight they shot close to 50%. So you got to give Iowa a lot of credit.”

It didn’t take long for things to get away from the Spartans, who scored the first bucket of the game on a jump-hook from Marcus Bingham. Iowa quickly responded by going on a 13-2 surge take control of the game only four minutes into the first half.

Michigan State had a bit of a response by scoring the next seven points but Keegan Murray nailed back-to-back 3-pointers and the Hawkeyes were soon back up by double digits after a jumper from Joe Toussaint pushed the lead to 24-13. The lead soon grew to 15 points when Connor McCaffery nailed two triples in a row.

Despite 14 first-half points from Hall, the Spartans did little to slow the Hawkeyes’ offense, which shot 17-for-34 and made seven 3-pointers. Michigan State got within 10 with just less than four minutes to play, but Iowa quickly pushed back and took a 46-32 lead to the halftime locker room.

Michigan State coach Tom Izzo discusses the Spartans' loss to Iowa, the fifth in the last six games.

“It’s frustrating,” Hall said. “If somebody else is knocking down shots in your face, you’re going to get frustrated and you're going to want better for yourself. But it's our job to control that and be able to play and continue to play on. Basketball game of runs and you’ve got to be able handle the runs and have runs of your own.”

Michigan State made several surges in the second half but could never get over the hump. After scoring the first four points to cut the deficit to 10, it got two straight stops but turned the ball over and missed a 3-pointer. Iowa took advantage and eventually extended the margin to 55-39 after a five-point possession that included a technical foul on Izzo.

The Spartans then scored five in a row to pull within 11 with 13:55 to play, but two straight 3-pointers from Bohannon and a jumper from Keegan Murray gave Iowa a 63-44 lead, its biggest of the game at that point with 12:25 left in the game.

“We’re having this problem that every time we get it to eight or nine, we just take a bad shot or we make a bad turnover,” Izzo said. “So, we're going to change some things up probably.”


Twitter: @mattcharboneau