The first time Michigan State (17-2, 8-0 B1G) and Iowa (16-3, 5-3 B1G) squared off earlier this season, things went as well as they could for the Spartans and couldn’t have gone much worse for the Hawkeyes.
MSU hit on all cylinders offensively, being led by Nick Ward’s game-high 26 points en route to a 22-point beatdown in East Lansing. On the defensive end, the Spartans stymied the Hawkeyes, holding them to just 33 percent from the field, including limiting their go-to scorer Tyler Cook to 15 hard-earned points.
Flash forward nearly two months later and both teams are trending upwards. Since then, the sixth-ranked Spartans have rattled off 11 straight wins as part of a 12-game winning streak they’re riding into Thursday night’s game in Iowa City. Since their drubbing at the Breslin Center, the 19th-ranked Hawkeyes have won their last five contests and 10 of their last 11. It’s 16-3 record matches Iowa’s best start in the Fran McCaffery era.
The league’s top two offenses will be on full display Thursday night. The Spartans’ league-leading 83.8 points per game are just one point more than what the Hawkeyes are scoring per game. Junior forward Tyler Cook has led Iowa in scoring and rebounding in seven of the last 11 outings, but it’s been Luka Garza leading the way during the Hawkeyes’ five-game winning streak.
Garza’s 13.9 points per game are good for second on the team, but the sophomore forward has been the catalyst during Iowa’s win streak, averaging 16.4 points and five rebounds per game during that stretch.
Joe Wieskamp is another Hawkeye that’s quickly turning heads. The freshmen shooting guard’s 11.9 points per game rank third on the team, but during the last five games, Wieskamp is averaging 14.6 points per game and is shooting a blazing 50 percent from 3-point land.
Through eight league games, Iowa is allowing 76.2 points per game, which is a much-improved number than at this point last season, where the Hawkeyes were giving up almost 85 points per game. Despite averaging 83.8 points per game, MSU, albeit a bit shorthanded with Kyle Ahrens and Joshua Langford both missing games with injuries, has sputtered a tad offensively, failing to hit that scoring mark in each of its last four outings.
The good news for the Spartans, however, is that they get deeper with Ahrens returning to the mix. Ahrens had missed two straight games before returning to the lineup in a win against Maryland, where the redshirt junior forward logged 12 productive minutes. Following the Maryland win, head coach Tom Izzo ruled Langford, whose missed the last six games with a left foot injury, out again for Thursday’s game.
Thursday’s contest will mark the 130th meeting between the two programs, with MSU owning the all-time series 74-55. Despite boasting a 35-25 advantage against the Spartans in games played in Iowa City, the Hawkeyes dropped last year’s only meeting in Carver-Hawkeye Arena, 96-93.
Tipoff for Thursday’s game is pegged for 7 p.m., with Tim Brando and Bill Raftery having the call on FS1.