Michigan State knew it would be over-extended playing down two starters. Things got even worse when Iowa pushed the Spartans to overtime.
In the end, none of that matters when you have a veteran squad with a will to win.
Keith Appling scored a team-high 16 points, Matt Costello had a double-double and the No. 7 Spartans held No. 15 Iowa without a field goal for more than 14 minutes in the second half and overtime to score a 71-69 victory at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Tuesday (Jan. 28) night.
While nothing short of a relief, the Spartans' veterans nearly shot themselves in the foot late. Ahead 70-64 with a half-minute remaining, all Michigan State needed to do was play the free-throw game to walk away victorious. Instead, missed opportunities at the charity stripe from Appling and Travis Trice and an and-one foul on Gary Harris allowed the Hawkeyes one surprising last shot with 4.4 seconds remaining.
Mike Gesell got a good look, too—a layup on his natural right side as time expired. But, as they'll seemingly have to do for the time being, the Spartans survived when Gesell's shot rimmed out.
For Tom Izzo's squad, this game came down setting up and overcoming what at times felt like insurmountable odds. Iowa came in having won 20 straight games at home, given the perfect opportunity for its second win over a Top 10 opponent this season. At times, with the crowd rocking and Michigan State leading scorer Gary Harris completely out of his game, it felt like the Hawkeyes would pull it off.
They led 30-26 at the break and consistently throughout the second half, keeping Michigan State at arms length. Then, a field-goal drought starting with 9:57 remaining changed the trajectory of the entire game. Iowa kept scoring points, but it couldn't get that one necessary bucket when it needed it most.
Fran McCaffery will walk away knowing his team would have won had it simply been able to knock down a free throw. Michigan State send McCaffery's Hawkeyes to the line 36 times in the first two halves, but they managed to hit just 24 of those attempts. Those misses were highlighted by Gesell rimming out the first of two off rim with 48 seconds remaining, which would have given the Hawkeyes a lead.
By the end, Iowa had gone to the line a whopping 43 times—more than double that of Michigan State. Roy Devyn Marble, who had a game-high 21 points, was the only Hawkeye with more than three field-goal makes and one of just three players who hit multiple shots. Iowa lived at the line and ultimately died there, as Michigan State's efforts on the defensive end ultimately overcame its struggling offensive gameplan.
The Spartans were without guard Branden Dawson for the second straight game and center Adreian Payne for the sixth. Dawson is expected to be out for at least another month after breaking his right hand while watching game film, while Payne is still attempting to work his way back from a bothersome foot injury.
Payne was the team's second-leading scorer and its heart in the middle of the defense. Dawson, who was averaging 10.2 points per game, was oftentimes the emotional leader, with his on-court swings coinciding with Michigan State's offensive flow.
Their absences were felt in a big way Tuesday—especially with Harris and Denzel Valentine struggling to pick up the load. Michigan State shot just 9-of-28 in the first half, relying almost entirely on its team defense to keep the score close. Iowa opened 3-of-16 from the floor, which allowed the Spartans to build an early lead that atoned for their long offensive missteps.
As noted by ESPN Stats & Info, about the only time Michigan State could put points on the board was via transition attempts:
It was the story of the game for the Spartans, whose half-court offense has been a work in progress while trying to adjust their rotation. Being without Payne cost them their best low-post presence. Combined with the loss of the bouncy athleticism and energy of Dawson, easy buckets close to the rim came at a premium.
Twenty-nine of Michigan State's 59 field-goal attempts came from beyond the arc, with the 10 conversions being one of a select few areas the Spartans eclipsed the Hawkeyes. Appling and Trice (10 points) made three apiece, while Valentine went 2-of-7 from distance.
Harris, who came in with three straight 20-point games, managed only nine points on 3-of-9 shooting. He missed on each of his four three-point attempts, and Izzo could be seen on the sideline imploring his talented young guard to aggressively drive to the hoop. Perhaps Harris more than anyone should be thanking Costello, who battled on the boards for an 11-point, 12-rebound performance to pick up the slack.
It was the type of outing Izzo is going to need to emphasize as long as Payne and Dawson are sidelined. Give all your effort and hope for the best outcome. Against Michigan over the weekend, it wasn't enough. But on Tuesday, effort and a little luck went a long way.
|Kenny Kaminski, F||D|
|Matt Costello, F||B|
|Gary Harris, G||C-|
|Denzel Valentine, G||B-|
|Keith Appling, G||B|
|Alex Gauna, F||C|
|Gavin Schilling, F||C+|
|Alvin Ellis III, G||C|
|Travis Trice, G||C|
|Russell Byrd, G||C|
|Melsahn Basabe, F||C+|
|Aaron White, F||C|
|Adam Woodbury, C||C+|
|Roy Devyn Marble, G||B+|
|Mike Gesell, G||C|
|Zach McCabe, F||C|
|Jarrod Uthoff, F||C-|
|Gabriel Olaseni, C||C|
|Josh Oglesby, G||C|
|Anthony Clemmons, G||C|
Players of the Game: Keith Appling (G, Michigan State), Roy Devyn Marble (G, Iowa)
Even when Appling isn't filling up the buckets, he's learning how to affect the game in other ways. With his shot not working early, the senior guard found open teammates as a distributor. Appling took over the offense with Harris unable to get into rhythm, creating shots despite his well-publicized struggles with a wrist injury.
Rarely does a team like Michigan State have just 26 points at the half and it not be a total nightmare. Izzo would have preferred Harris, his best player not currently on the injured list, to have a better shooting outing. But considering the load he's had, you could have understood that Appling would be needed in these situations.
Of course, Appling was ready to play. He came out more aggressive in the second half, getting to the rim and buoyed by increased confidence in his shot.
Speaking of aggression, Marble never turns his off. After an eight-point first half, he looked to get to the cup early, even going one-on-three down the floor and finishing with a layup. It was his eighth double-digit scoring performance in a row, coming at a time when Iowa's schedule strength is starting to ratchet up.
It was also interesting to see the dichotomy between Marble and Harris. Marble, the battle-tested senior, thrived as the crowd grew louder. You could see every roar of the crowd giving him confidence, at times when Harris was just trying to recapture his. Harris, the sophomore trying out his hand as an alpha dog, needed a bit more time to see the game slow down.
Marble's night wound up being nearly halted by the injury scare—though he was fine—while Appling missed two free throws that could have clinched it at the end. Still, in a sport filled with one-and-dones, it was nice to see both guys thrive.
Michigan State will get to take a scheduled detour from its Big Ten gauntlet when the Spartans face Georgetown at Madison Square Garden on Saturday. Iowa, in action the same day, will hit the road to face Illinois at the State Farm Center.
Follow Tyler Conway on Twitter: