IOWA CITY — Tyler Cook couldn’t be stopped, the lead was eight as the first TV timeout of the second half hit, the Carver-Hawkeye Arena crowd was jumping. Michigan State’s Big Ten Conference win streak was in jeopardy.
And then it wasn’t.
The fifth-ranked Spartans responded as they seem to usually do, going on a humongous run that set them up for an 82-67 win Thursday night over the No. 21 Iowa Hawkeyes.
How big was this run? Try 24-2, coming in just five minutes and 46 seconds, turning a 50-42 Iowa lead into a 66-52 Iowa deficit.
Snap. Game changed. Just like that.
“They’re a resilient team. Whatever the lead is, you know they’re going to come back at you. That’s what we needed to (do),” said Iowa’s Luka Garza. “We came out (in the second half) and won the first four minutes. That’s a team that the last four minutes of the (first) half, then the first four minutes of the second half, they’re killing people. We won both of those stretches, and that was our goal. We needed to continue to have that same effort and that fight. When they came at us, we weren’t able to swing back.”
Michigan State (18-2, 9-0) scored 51 second-half points to win its 21st consecutive Big Ten regular-season game. Everyone did something for the Spartans during the key stretch: outstanding point guard Cassius Winston with three 3s, wing Matt McQuaid with a couple of 3s, big man Nick Ward beating Iowa’s posts down court in transition.
Meanwhile, Iowa (16-4, 5-4) kept missing and missing and missing. Just four days after lighting up Illinois in a record-breaking shooting performance, the Hawks struggled to the tune of 38.6 percent from the field, 5 of 24 from distance.
Basketball, man, sometimes it’s fickle that way.
“It sucks,” said Iowa’s Jordan Bohannon. “I had a lot of open shots tonight that I thought would go down, and none did. We missed a lot of bunnies tonight. It was an eight-point lead at the time, and it could have been a 16-point lead if we had hit some shots.”
Bohannon, guard mate Isaiah Moss and forward Joe Wieskamp combined for just 10 points on 4-for-20 shooting. That’s not going to win you games.
“I thought Isaiah had some good looks, Joe, Jo-Bo. And they’ve been making them,” said Iowa Coach Fran McCaffery. “So that’s unfortunate. They’re good kids. Just tell them to keep firing.”
Winston finished with 23 points and Ward 21 for MSU, which has handed Iowa half of its losses this season. Luka Garza had 20 points and Tyler Cook 17 for Iowa, which continually pounded the basketball inside.
Cook had 11 points the first four minutes of the second half mostly on isolation and back-in plays but didn’t score again until late.
“They made some adjustments, started getting shots that they liked, matchups that they liked,” Cook said. “They made shots. We didn’t do enough to stop them. It’s really as simple as that.”
“It’s hard to explain my team sometimes,” said Michigan State Coach Tom Izzo. “This is one of those times. We did not make good plays in the first half. Iowa missed some shorts early that they normall make. We were lucky to be down only four (35-31) ... We said at halftime that we had to play better, we’ve got to run and get the ball inside, and we have to guard better.”
Michigan State made 20 of 21 free throws to Iowa’s 8 of 8, which was a source of obvious annoyance for McCaffery, who said he didn’t care for what he perceived a lack of referee’s calls without actually saying it.
“Our game plan was to throw the ball inside, and we did,” McCaffery said. “Many times. We threw it in there a lot. Phenomenally aggressive, the most aggressive we’ve been all year long tonight throwing the ball inside.”
Iowa is at Minnesota on Sunday afternoon. It’s a 4:05 p.m. tipoff.
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“There were a lot of good things that happened for our team tonight,” McCaffery said. “You can’t lose sight of that because you get beat. There was a stretch in the game where it got away from us. That’s unfortunate.”
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