The Michigan State Spartans played their third road game in six days on Tuesday night and finally showed some signs of life after the almost three-week COVID pause in January. MSU had a chance to tie or take the lead with under 30 seconds to play, but a mid-range jumper from Josh Langford did not connect, and the Hawkeyes hit free throws late to seal the six-point victory.
Tom Izzo made a few changes in the starting lineup at the point guard and center position. He opted to start Foster Loyer at the point and Marcus Bingham Jr. in the middle. In stark contrast to the previous two games, the Spartans started the game hot from the field. The Spartans hit their first six three-pointers and built an early 11-point lead eight minutes into the game.
But the Spartans cooled off a bit as half time approached. In addition, the fouls began to accumulate. By halftime in Iowa City, a total of six Spartans had two fouls and the Hawkeyes had shot a total of 18 free throws to the Spartans’ 10.
Aaron Henry (15 points), Josh Langford (nine points), and Rocket Watts (eight points) all had strong a strong first half, and MSU out-rebounded Iowa 21-18, but the Spartans trailed 48-43 at the half.
The Spartans came out of the locker room in the second half a little cold, but rallied to take a two-point lead with 12 minutes to play. The game remained close, but Iowa slowly built a lead that grew as large as nine points with just over three minutes to play.
But, MSU wasn’t quite done yet. The Green and White turned up the defense and offensive execution in the final minutes. Joey Hauer scored four straight points and then a pair of lay-ups by Aaron Henry and Thomas Kithier cut the deficit to only two points. Then, the Spartan defense forced a shot clock violation which set up the near heroics from Josh Langford in the final minute.
The Spartans were led by Henry’s 24 points and nine rebounds. Langford chipped in 15 points while Hauser just missed out on a double-double with 10 points and nine rebounds.
Overall, the Spartans shot well from three (12-for-29, 41 percent), out-rebounded Iowa, 42 to 38, and only committed eight turnovers. But, MSU shot under 40 percent from two and committed 28 total fouls which resulted in 35 Iowa free throws. Presumptive Big Ten player of the year, Luka Garza, led all scorers with 27 for the Hawkeyes.
Despite the loss, the Spartans did show a lot of progress on Tuesday. The Green and White will now get a bit of a breather with three-straight home games including contests against Nebraska and Penn State who are a combined 3-11 in Big Ten play. If the Spartans can build on the effort and execution that they showed in Iowa City, they will have a chance to maybe salvage the season.