Tuesday night’s action saw the No. 18 Iowa Hawkeyes come to the Brez for a tilt with our No. 24 Michigan State Spartans. The Spartans came out victorious and avoided losing their outside shot of staying in contention for a share of the Big Ten title with a huge home win over the fifth ranked offense per KenPom.
Foul trouble was the primary name of the game for the Spartans in the first half. Michigan State got only about four minutes out of Xavier Tillman as he quickly picked up two fouls and headed for the bench with 15:12 left and did not return. Luka Garza missed two layups and two three-point attempts at this point in game play. After Tillman left, he had 12 points, three assists and six rebounds.
The Spartans did well for the first half defensively overall, despite some arguably whistle happy officiating. At the under-16 timeout MSU trailed ten to seven. From there it was a tale of mostly missed shots and turnovers until the next TV timeout with 11:54 to go, and the score now 14-11 Iowa.
Coming out of the second TV timeout of the half, the Spartans struggled offensively while continuing to hold the Hawkeyes to low scoring. Despite poor rebounding, MSU still limited Iowa during this stretch to keep it close at 20-16 by the official timeout with 7:41 left. This is where the Spartans finally made a run to take the lead briefly. Rocket Watts got a layup and made a free throw to bring the Spartans within two before Julius Marble drained it off a Cassius Winston assist to take the lead 21-20.
After this it was mostly Garza to finish the half as he scored nine of his twelve points by the close of the half. As for the Spartans, they went one-of-nine from three point range in the first half, and 11-of-20 from two point range.
Winston had just one point, and he dished four assists to just two turnovers. Rocket led the Spartans in scoring for the half with nine points. Overall the rebound margin was awful for an Izzo team as Iowa won at the glass to the tune of 15-13 on the defensive boards and 22-16 overall. At least both teams were even in turnovers with six apiece.
Oh, and Winston drained a half-court shot going into the locker room, but was well after the buzzer on the release unfortunately.
Trent Frazier did it last night, and @MSU_Basketball almost had ANOTHER halftime buzzer-beater from beyond half-court.— Big Ten Network (@BigTenNetwork) February 26, 2020
Instead @cassiuswinston joins Devonte Green in the category of crazy shots this season that didn't quite count: pic.twitter.com/BEQKITWwvn
Let’s start the second half recap with the fun moment where Garza started bleeding, and ESPN went to his father in the stands as dad proceeded to stand up and loudly yell “Bullshit” at the refs during a quiet moment in the arena. Not every day you see that, but at least he’s not Fran McCaffery with some angry clipboard kicks or chair throws.
Getting back to the actual start of the second half, Ryan Kriener missed a three-point attempt for Iowa’s opening possession. Watts grabbed the rebound and dished the assist to Winston as he drained a three. This would be the story of the second half from here on out as Winston took over for the most part. However, we will get to that run shortly.
Before that, it was a more back and forth affair until the first TV timeout of the half. This was with 15:32 left and came after a Malik Hall foul on Garza, who scored the bucket and got an and-one after the timeout. The score saw Iowa in the lead 45-41. Coming out of the timeout, Garza made his extra point and MSU responded with a Watts three pointer off an assist from Winston.
From here it was a Tillman free throw, and then a seven to ten run between Iowa and Cassius Winston as he pulled MSU to within two. Now it was Aaron Henry’s turn to score off an assist from Winston to tie it up at 51 each with 12:22 left. Then a Tillman layup gave MSU its first lead since the 17:56 mark of the first half. Iowa quickly recovered and kept a narrow lead for the next few minutes of game play.
The Spartans stayed on Iowa’s heals, never letting Iowa get the lead higher than four at most for the next few minutes of game play. Then MSU finally tied it back up at 61 on a pair of Winston free throws with 4:38 left. Henry turned around and sunk two more free throws for the lead after Bakari Evelyn turned the ball over and fouled Henry. And with that, the Spartans never looked back as they built out the lead to as much as eight at one point.
Garza was held to just below his season scoring average with 20 points on 8-21 shooting and he hauled in nine rebounds. Overall Iowa managed just 22.2 percent from three, going 6-27 from deep. They also managed just 40 percent shooting overall. Izzo will obviously have words to say to the team when he sees the 17-7 advantage on the offensive glass giving Iowa the boards battle 41-33 overall.
As for MSU, they cut their turnover margin in half compared to the last game in Lincoln against the Nebraska Cornhuskers, keeping it to just 11 turnovers this time. Shooting was much better in the second half as the Spartans moved up to 35 percent from deep. Watts finished as the leading scorer with 21 points, and managed two boards and an assist. Winston finished just behind him, and just shy of a double-double with 20 points and nine assists. Cassius also managed five boards as well.
Tillman, Henry, and Hall all finished with six boards. Henry led the group in scoring, and was third overall for the team with 17 points. No one else managed double-digits scoring, but Tillman was next highest with six points while picking up just one foul in the second half. X and Marcus Bingham also chalked up two blocks apiece.
And that marks a Victory for MSU!
In his post-game interview, perhaps the most telling quotation from Coach Izzo was that the team “found a way to win, and that was the biggest thing we needed to do.” Regarding individual players, he had the following to say:
Tillman was “a man” tonight in the second half, Henry played as good an all-around game, and Watts earned a bit of praise as well. As for MSU outscoring Iowa 24-0 on the fast break? “Wow, that was one (stat) I did not see.”
As for Tillman, this little gem means he leads Michigan State all-time in career blocks as well.
The Spartans are back in action Saturday night with an 8 p.m. ET tip at the No. 9 Maryland Terrapins in College Park. For any fellow Spartans heading to that one, I’ll see you there. As for Coach Izzo’s thought’s on the upcoming road game? Well, he had the following to say: “I can’t say that I’m not looking forward to going to Maryland because I am.”