There isn't a team in the country who is going to want to see Michigan State come tournament time.
The No. 22 Spartans (23-7, 12-5 Big Ten) used a huge second-half run to secure a crucial 86-76 victory over No. 24 Iowa on Thursday night at the Jack Breslin Student Events Center in East Lansing.
With the senior night victory, Michigan State secures no worse than fourth place in the Big Ten, and more importantly, clinches a first-round bye in the conference tournament, scheduled for next week in Indianapolis.
The Spartans, who trailed 41-39 at the half, outscored the Hawkeyes 47-35 in the second half to break open a game that was close throughout the first 20 minutes.
They were led by Travis Trice with 17 points and Denzel Valentine with 13 points, nine assists and six rebounds.
Keith Appling, who has struggled with a lingering wrist injury this season, added 12 points, all in the second half.
Iowa (22-10, 9-8 Big Ten) should still be safely headed toward an NCAA tournament berth, but they're inching closer to the dreaded bubble. They've now lost four of their last five games and couldn't capitalize on a strong first half that had them in position to secure an important victory.
The Hawkeyes allowed the Spartans to score the first nine points coming out of the break, and they never threatened again.
Devyn Marble led Iowa with 24 points, but he was limited to just eight after the half and struggled mightily to find open looks once the Spartans clamped down defensively.
Both teams have one more regular-season game remaining on their schedule.
Michigan State plays at Ohio State on Sunday, while Iowa will host Illinois on Saturday.
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