ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Iowa coach Fran McCaffery questioned his team’s toughness last year after the Hawkeyes were pulverized 95-61 at Michigan State.
The final score didn’t adequately reflect the pounding Iowa absorbed. The Spartans were — as always — more physical than Iowa. But Michigan State competed on each possession at both ends of the floor. Iowa played soft, timid and basically quit in the second half.
McCaffery emphasized his displeasure by ramming a chair on the court at the Breslin Center. It didn’t matter to the final outcome, but his point came across four days later. Iowa responded with one of its best efforts in a 16-point home win against Big Ten tri-champion Michigan.
Sunday, toughness was in short supply during Iowa’s 95-67 loss at No. 2 Michigan. Iowa lacked the defensive diligence necessary to compete with the Wolverines. It was a thorough beating, reminiscent of Iowa’s pasting at East Lansing last year.
Iowa (11-4, 0-2 Big Ten) plays host to No. 22 Michigan State (12-3, 1-1) on Thursday, four days after its recent Michigan debacle. With last year’s response as a template, Iowa has shown it can rally after suffering a humiliating loss. But that’s not the formula Iowa wants to use going forward.
“It can be done but you don’t want to have to go through this to get to that,” Iowa junior Devyn Marble said. ”That’s not what the good teams do. Good teams would have at least competed at a higher level than we did (Sunday) coming off the loss to Indiana. But it’s in the past.
“Hopefully we can get past this and use these next few days of practice and really reach down and play with a toughness and an intensity we were playing with before this game.”
Defense and discipline provided the keys to Iowa’s four-day turnaround last year. The Spartans shot 61.7 percent against Iowa in the teams’ first meeting (they later met in the Big Ten quarterfinals). Michigan State crushed the Hawkeyes with 50 points in the paint and 33 points off 21 Iowa turnovers. Iowa followed by holding Michigan to 38.5 percent from the floor. Iowa also cut its turnovers in half and out-rebounded Michigan by nine.
Sunday, Iowa hung with the Wolverines for most of the first half but gave up an 8-0 run to enter halftime down 11 points. Iowa appeared flat-footed defensively at the start of the second half and allowed Michigan to score on 18 of 19 possessions over 11 minutes. Iowa’s lead evaporated from four points to an 18-point deficit.
Iowa Coach Fran McCaffery regards Sunday’s loss as a learning experience. It might need to be a crash course.
“Anytime there is a game like this, we are going to break it down and show it to the players,” McCaffery said. “Not to highlight anything overly negative or to get in someone’s face. It is all learning, teaching, and growing and looking at the good things because we did a lot of good things (Sunday).
“We only turned the ball over seven times on the road against a really good team and that’s great. But, we didn’t block out like we needed to. Our execution offensively was better than it’s been and that’s good, but it’s not good enough. You have to watch it. You have to go through it. It’s not going to be a terrible thing. It’s not going to be fun to watch, but it will be something they will learn from and hopefully we will be a lot better on Thursday when we play again.”