IOWA CITY — Michigan State is smooth with a ton of stars and that’s why it walked out of Carver-Hawkeye Arena with a win Tuesday night.
Spartan star Miles Bridges scored 25 points, including four down the stretch, to lead the No. 4 Spartans to a thrilling 96-93 victory over Iowa before a crowd of 11,350.
Iowa’s Tyler Cook had a game-high 26 points, hitting 11 of 22 from the floor. Guard Jordan Bohannon had 17. Guard Maishe Dailey added 13, and Cordell Pemsl and Isiah Moss added 11 apiece for the Hawkeyes (12-14), who fell to 3-10 in the Big Ten.
Nick Ward added 17 for Michigan State (23-3, 11-2 Big Ten). Joshua Langford had 15.
Iowa travels to No. 14 Ohio State on Saturday.
This was the highest scoring Iowa-Michigan State game since 1988 (103-87 Iowa win in East Lansing).
“I hope you all enjoyed the offensive fireworks tonight, because I don’t think either team played any defense to be honest with you,” Michigan State Coach Tom Izzo said. “I’ll speak solely for myself. We didn’t.”
Michigan State walked into Carver on Tuesday night with the ranking that did its own talking. And the Spartans went to work immediately backing that up.
Before the Carver crowd had its coats unzipped, the Spartans had four dunks. Jaren Jackson had a pair. Ward added a pair. The lead reached 16-7 and the Hawkeyes didn’t buckle.
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Bohannon, a game-time decision with an illness, dropped a 25-footer to pull Iowa within 10-7 and Iowa did enough to stay in range. The Spartans also were slowed by foul trouble, with Jackson and Ward picking up their second fouls with 10 minutes still left in the half.
“I really felt like he was better on Sunday and then he threw up all day yesterday,” McCaffery said about Bohannon. “I was trying to get him some rest, but he’s one tough dude.”
Down a point late, Iowa had a pair of lost possessions that helped the Spartans sneak away. Bohannon got caught between moves on a play called for him, and MSU’s Cassius Winston blocked his 3-point attempt. On another, Moss got hung up at the top of the key with the shot clock running out. This was under a minute. Iowa got one more basketball, but the Spartans made their free throws.
“It was just an unfortunate play for us,” McCaffery said.
Bridges kept the Spartans going, finishing the half with 15 points, including a big 3-pointer with 1:25 left. Luka Garza scored an off-balance flat-footed shot and the Spartans led 48-42 at halftime. Cook led Iowa with 11 points, but had no rebounds, which wasn’t a death blow. The Hawkeyes outrebounded the Spartans and didn’t give an inch in the lane.
Notice there’s nothing so far about the Hawkeyes breaking. A six-point halftime deficit against the No. 4 team in the country was met with a quick 7-0 run early in the second half and Iowa stayed in it from there.
Jackson took his third foul early in the second half and went to the bench for reflection. And then Cook kind of took over.
Moss provided energy, playing inspired defense and getting a breakaway dunk out of it. He also hit a free throw that gave Iowa its first lead, 61-60, with 14:16 left in the second half but Cook had an unstoppable stretch, scoring nine of Iowa’s 13 points and keeping the Hawkeyes a step ahead.
The foul trouble continued for the Spartans. After Ward started getting hot with about 10 minutes left, he picked up with fourth foul at 6:50 with the Hawkeyes holding an 83-76 lead. Pemsl kept the pressure on MSU’s talented and foul-addled frontcourt with a couple of baskets during Iowa’s 9-3 run to a 78-71 lead.
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Along with Pemsl, Iowa got some juice from Dailey, who hit a pair of 3-pointers to stretch the Spartans defense.
Maybe this all stemmed from Cook’s first-half block of the Spartans’ Xavier Tillman. Tillman drove the baseline with bad intentions, putting both hands on the ball and looking for a launch point. He launched, but Cook served him up a block sandwich.
Maybe at that point, a team with three Big Ten victories just thought something really heroic like, “Let’s do this” or “Why not us?”
But then that No. 4 ranking showed up. Or the team that holds the No. 4 ranking. The Spartans got a 3-pointer out of Kenny Goins, his first triple in 10 games, and the mad scramble was on.
Bridges hit a pair of free throws. Iowa got crossed up on a called play and Moss missed a 3-pointer he kind of just threw at the basket as the shot clock went off for a violation.
Bridges, a 90-percent free-throw shooter and a future NBA player, sank a pair of free throws on the other end for a 94-91 lead. Down three, Iowa went to Cook inside to pull within 94-93.
The ensuing rush for the Spartans to get the ball up court worked. Iowa faded.
The body English you put on Nicholas Baer’s half-court 3-point attempt at the buzzer might have you in traction Wednesday.
It was that close for the Hawkeyes.
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