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A Collapse Of Spartan Proportions

MSU loses 13-point lead with 94 seconds remaining

Michigan State v Iowa Photo by Matthew Holst/Getty Images

This one is going to go down as one of the most memorable games in college basketball. Too bad it was wasted on 2 teams battling for a double-bye in the Big Ten Tournament. The scoring and the drama in this one was worthy of the second weekend of March Madness. Sadly, this will end up as another chapter telling the story of how MSU can not close out games.

Game Flow Highlights:

It felt evident from early on that this would be a high-scoring game. Five different MSU players scored by the time the game reached its first timeout, and there was even a dunk from Mady and a triple by AJ.

The scoring settled down for a bit after that as MSU went into full-blown turnover mode, coughing it up on 5 of 6 possessions. Amazingly, they were able to stay within 3 at the next timeout.

From here, it stopped being a basketball game and it converted to a three-point contest, one where no one misses apparently. Joey Hauser and Payton Sandfort led the efforts for their respective teams, but we also saw makes Iowa’s Connor McCaffery and from Jaden Akins late. The game was notched at 34 at the under-4, and they went to the locker room tied at 42.

MSU was 6 of 8 from deep at the break, but they had also committed 9 turnovers.

Coach Izzo inserted the small-ball lineup to start the 2nd half and it seemed to pay immediate dividends. Malik Hall hit 2 shots to get MSU rolling, and then Tyson Walker hit a triple-try. The lineup had to be abandoned when Hall picked up his 3rd foul, bringing Mady back into the game. MSU’s offense did not slow down at that point, though, and they led 58-52 at the under-16.

Shortly after play resumed, Akins hit another one from deep, moving to 4/4 on the day. Unfortunately for MSU, Mady got called for his 3rd foul just after that on what everyone seems to agree was a bad call; the blocked shot was clean. He went out and Carson Cooper came in, his first appearance of the day after missing the Indiana game. MSU held a 65-61 lead at the under-12 whistle.

Around this time, Tyson Walker turned into a Game of Thrones villain, complete with ice in his veins. With just over 11 minutes remaining, he would hit a shot-clock-beating jumper, something that became a theme for the rest of regulation. On MSU’s next trip, Hauser had a turnover; more on that later. For Iowa, Filip Rebraca, who was possibly their best player in this one so far, picked up his 3rd foul on the offensive end. MSU was up 5 at the under-8.

Coming back from the break, we got some back and forth. MSU would extend to 7 or 8, and then Iowa would bring it back to around 3 or 4. But right after Rebraca got his 4th foul, Joey hit a corner 3, and that was followed by another Walker shot-clock beater. MSU had extended the lead to 10, 82-72, at the final TV timeout.

In the last segment of the game (yes, the game, because there is no way MSU is losing, okay), the teams traded a pair of FTs. Then, after a Rebraca layup, Walker got it back to double-digits with a jumper. An Iowa turnover followed shortly after, and Walker was fouled; a technical foul was also called on Iowa at the same time, and Tyson would hit 3 of 4 free throws to make the game 89-76 with 2:03 remaining.

Okay, guys here is the sequence from here:

  • Iowa layup - 11 point game
  • MSU FTs - 13 point game
  • Iowa 3 - 10 point game
  • MSU FTs - 12 point game (1:27 remaining)
  • Iowa layup, Hauser foul, FT made - 9 point game
  • MSU turnover
  • Iowa missed triple
  • MSU FTs - 11 point game (1:05 remaining)
  • Iowa FTs - 9 point game
  • MSU split FTs - 10 point game (interesting note: after Akins missed the first, Hoggard is visible in background laughing at him; this is irrelevant though, I promise.)
  • Iowa 3 - 7 point game (:39 remaining)
  • MSU turnover
  • Iowa missed 3, offensive rebound, made 3 - 4 point game (:30 remaining)
  • MSU FTs - 6 point game
  • Iowa 3 - 3 point game (:20 remaining)
  • MSU FTs - 5 point game
  • Iowa 3 - 2 point game (:10 remaining)
  • MSU FT, then Hoggard misses 2nd FT (not karma for laughing at Akins earlier, I promise) - 3-point game
  • Iowa 3 - tie game (:03 remaining)
  • Hoggard misses heave at buzzer and this game goes to overtime.

So, to recap, MSU led by 13 with just over 2 minutes in the game. From there, Iowa hit 6 three-pointers. MSU had 2 turnovers and 3 missed FTs (including one of Hall’s right before that final stretch).

Okay, fine, MSU will win it in overtime, right? I mean, Rebraca was fouled out already and Connor McCaffery already had 4 fouls. And MSU had been shooting lights out all day. Well, Izzo was back with the small-ball lineup early in OT and Iowa immediately started going inside with Kris Murray and Tony Perkins. MSU, without one of their centers in, was unable to stop the Hawkeyes strategy, and promptly fell behind. And, on top of that, MSU suddenly could not make a shot, hitting only one FG in the extra session. Yeah, MSU lost this one.

Quick Analysis:

Basically, MSU no longer has a chance at the double–bye in the BTT. If they can continue to score 100 points in regulation, they might be okay. But this was a continuation of a troubling theme we have seen throughout the conference schedule. This MSU team can not put away games. I know some of you are going to say that Iowa was lucky to make 6 triples at the end, and that may be true. But, bottom line, you don’t lose a 13-point lead in 2 minutes without doing a few things wrong. This was probably (definitely) MSU’s best offensive performance of the year, and it got wasted by poor discipline at the end.

3 Things I Liked: (I’m going to fly through these)

  1. 11 for 13 from 3 and scoring 101 points… in regulation.
  2. Walker doing what he wants when he wants… in regulation.
  3. Fran McCaffery vs. referee stare down.

3 Things I Did Not Like:

  1. “Joey!”s. I promised this would always be part of this section from now on. Today, I counted two “Joey!”s. The first was his baseline drive with about 10:30 remaining in regulation when he stepped out of bounds for the turnover. It’s not like he was being tightly guarded and was forced out. Nope, this was just a “Joey!” moment. The second was his foul on Kris Murray’s layup with 1:15 to go that gave Iowa an &1. Just stand there with your arms up and let him score. Turns out that 1 point was important. “Joey!”
  2. Nothing from our centers. Mady dunked it on the third possession of the game. That was his last FGA of the game. Kohler hit a nice turn-around jumper in the first half. He would miss his next, and only other, shot attempt, and did not even play in the 2nd half. I don’t know if he was hurt (I did not hear anything about it) or if this was a conscious decision by Izzo, but I found it strange that he did not come back in the game after halftime. Cooper hit 1 of 2 FTs and had a good play on defense, but he did not get much playing time at all. A lot of small-ball in this one, and I think it killed us in overtime.
  3. The big picture. This loss drops MSU to 9-8 in conference, a full game behind the 4 teams who currently have the 3rd and 4th spots for the double-bye, with 2 games remaining (3 if the B1G decides to reschedule the Minnesota game.) Hard to see the Spartans getting out of playing on Thursday now.

Up Next:

MSU stays in the central time zone for a matchup against Nebraska on Tuesday night at 9 PM.