Iowa Men's Basketball

Michigan State a pain in the paint for Iowa

Spartans fed their big men and devoured Hawkeyes, 90-68

Michigan State forward Nick Ward (44) dunks over Iowa Hawkeyes guard Connor McCaffery (30) and Iowa Hawkeyes forward Nicholas Baer (51) during the Spartans’ 90-68 win Monday night at Breslin Center in East Lansing, Mich. (Mike Carter/USA TODAY Sports)
Michigan State forward Nick Ward (44) dunks over Iowa Hawkeyes guard Connor McCaffery (30) and Iowa Hawkeyes forward Nicholas Baer (51) during the Spartans’ 90-68 win Monday night at Breslin Center in East Lansing, Mich. (Mike Carter/USA TODAY Sports)

EAST LANSING, Mich. — Beat down and beat up.

Which was worse for the Iowa men’s basketball team Monday night: Getting outmuscled and routed by 10th-ranked Michigan State, or seeing freshman wing Joe Wieskamp limp off the court as he was helped to the locker room with an ankle injury?

That depends on how seriously Wieskamp is hurt. Losing the talented rookie for an extended stretch, let alone Thursday night’s home game against Iowa State, would be worse than any single defeat. But the 90-68 pounding the No. 19 Hawkeyes (6-2 overall, 0-2 Big Ten) absorbed at Breslin Center was pretty nightmarish.

Wieskamp was injured with 11:47 left in the game when, while guarding MSU guard Joshua Langford on the baseline, he backed his right foot into Tyler Cook’s left foot. He immediately showed pain and crumpled to the court.

“He hurt his ankle,” Iowa Coach Fran McCaffery said. “It’s pretty much too early to say about Thursday. We’ll see how he is tomorrow, see how is Wednesday. It will probably be a game-time decision for him.”

It was injury to insult. Iowa was behind 60-36 when it occurred, and the deficit grew to 33 points at its largest.

The Hawkeyes had three points in the first 9:49 of the second half while the Spartans (7-2, 2-0) rang up 23. Since they began the half with a 43-33 lead, this thing was way out of hand with a lot of game left.

To say the Hawkeye played poor interior defense would suggest they played interior defense. MSU 6-foot-9, 245-pound junior Nick Ward toyed with Iowa made all 10 of his field goal attempts and scored a career-high 26 points in 23 minutes.

None of Ward’s baskets were from more than 2 feet from the basket. The Spartans scored 48 points in the paint.

“We did a poor job in the zone,” McCaffery said. “They kind of isolated our small forwards a couple times.”

“Kind of” was a kind way of putting it.

MSU backup forward Xavier Tillman, 6-8 and 245, posted up the shorter, smaller Wieskamp for baskets on two consecutive possessions late in the first half. Kenny Goins, a mere 6-7, 230-pounder, overwhelmed the Hawkeyes with 19 points, 14 rebounds and seven assists.

The Spartans’ offense had been guard-led through eight games, but Cassius Winston and Langford deferred to the big guys this game because it clearly was the clearest path to take. Winston had 12 assists. His team had 28 on 31 baskets.

“We kind of let them have too many looks on the inside,” said Cook, who topped Iowa with 15 points. “Pretty plain to see. We’ve got to do a better job of trying to contain on the inside guys, regardless of who’s guarding them.”

For four minutes, Iowa was flying. With the pace furious, Iowa fired to a 13-9 lead at the first media timeout. Then things stopped, and never really restarted for the Hawkeyes, though they hung close until the last five minutes of the first half.

MSU challenged virtually everything the Hawkeyes brought to the basket. Iowa made an icy 32.8 percent of its field goal tries, its second-straight Big Ten game under 40 percent.

“It’s a hiccup,” Cook said. “We want to win games early. We’re still ahead of the curve. It doesn’t change the way I look at this team or this season.”

l Comments: (319) 368-8840; mike.hlas@thegazette.com

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