Iowa gives league-leader all it could handle

Stats | Boxscore

by Sean Neugent


Box Score | AP Photo Gallery

The University of Iowa won the second-half scoring battle, 32-30, but fell short over the course of 40 minutes, losing 62-54 on Wednesday to No. 9 Michigan State in men’s basketball in front of 14,759 inside the Breslin Center.

Jake Kelly led the Hawkeyes with 20 points, five rebounds and four steals. With the loss, Iowa slipped to 14-14 overall, 4-11 in the Big Ten Conference. The league-leading Spartans improved to 22-5, 12-3.

The Hawkeyes shot 55 percent from the field in the second half, converting 11 of 20 attempts. That was four more makes (in the same number of tries) than during the first 20 minutes when they were 7 of 20. Iowa continued to have success at the foul line, sinking 12 of 13 free throw attempts.

Kelly, Matt Gatens and Devan Bawinkel all played the entire 40 minutes for Iowa.

“This is an incredible environment,” UI head coach Todd Lickliter said. “I really like the idea that they have the bleachers pulled-out, they’ve lowered them so everybody above can see and they just have students surrounding it and they are involved. It is not intimidating as much for the opponent as it is just unbelievable support.”

Michigan State, the Big Ten front-runner, had an answer every time Iowa pulled within a few points. But the Hawkeyes refused to let the Spartans run away with the game and continually responded every time Michigan State pushed their lead to double-digits.

The Hawkeyes shot 18 of 40 (45 percent) from the field, 6 of 21 (29 percent) from long-range, and 92 percent from the free throw line. The Spartans out-rebounded Iowa 33-19. The Hawkeyes were also hurt by 16 turnovers but Michigan State matched it with 16 of their own. The Spartans shot 21 of 47 (45 percent) from the floor, 6 of 18 (33 percent) from three-point range, and 14 of 20 (70 percent) from the free throw line.

Iowa had two players in double-figures as Kelly scored 20 points, Aaron Fuller had 10 points. Gatens added nine. Kelly also grabbed five rebounds and had four assists to lead the Hawkeyes in both categories.

“He (Kelly) has really done a nice job,” Lickliter said. “In the first half they really got after him, we couldn’t generate offense; we couldn’t find people to help him. With that said, in the second half he had one turnover. You think about it, if you have never played a position and it is one that you have the ball in your hands all the time and then you go and play Purdue, Michigan and Michigan State, good luck. I’m really proud of him (of taking over for injured Jeff Peterson at point guard).”

“We’re holding up fine. We’re just looking forward to the next game. We know we fought hard and aren’t going to hang our heads on this one. We just have to move on to Northwestern.”
UI sophomore
Jake Kelly

Iowa’s defense caused a few Spartan turnovers in the early minutes of the first half, but they had trouble getting anything going offensively. The Hawkeyes broke through for two three-pointers in a row from Fuller and Bawinkel to tie the score, 6-6.

Goran Suton hit a layup before Kelly answered it with a trey to take the first lead for the Hawkeyes. The Spartans followed it with a 14-2 run with a layup and four long-range jumpers, three from Lucious, for a 22-11 advantage.

“That was the turning point in the game,” Kelly said. “We would have only been down one at half if he (Lucious) wouldn’t have made those three-three’s consecutively like he did.”

The Spartans played tough full-court man-to-man defense to tire a depleted Hawkeye lineup that has some significant injuries. Iowa is without Jeff Peterson and Jermain Davis. Cyrus Tate is seeing some minutes but is still nursing a sprained ankle that has plagued him for most of the Big Ten season.

“It was pretty physical,” Kelly said. “As far as full-court pressure defense, Walton (Travis) and Lucas (Kalin) did a pretty good job of being physical with it.”

The Hawkeyes were in striking distance but the Spartans maintained around a 10-point lead for most of the first half. The Hawkeyes went into halftime trailing, 32-22.

Iowa continued to struggle in the second half against Michigan State’s defense. Gatens aggressively drove the lane and put up a short-range jumper before he was fouled. He made the basket and hit his free throw to pull within nine, 38-29.

Both teams had trouble scoring after several turnovers and fouls.

Kelly broke through and helped Iowa push even closer to the Spartans. Kelly faked a three-point attempt and threw it down low to Tate. Tate made the layup before he was fouled and made the free throw to trail 41-35.

After Tate’s three-point play, the scoring started to pick up and the Hawkeyes found themselves down 48-43 after a jumper from Kelly with 8:43 remaining.

A few free throws from the Spartans helped get them back to a double digit lead, 54-43. Fuller drilled a trifecta to keep Michigan State from running away with the game. The Spartans responded with a three-ball from Chris Allen.

Kelly again used good court-vision to get it into the hands of Cole, who hit a layup before being fouled on the following possession. Cole drained the free throw but Michigan State continued to respond every time the Hawkeyes threatened.

Time started winding down and the Hawkeyes were forced to foul the Spartans and put them on the free throw line. Michigan State nailed its free throws to ice the game.

“They are a good team,” Kelly said. “They have a lot of athletic bodies they can throw in there. They try to deny me the ball, pressure me the whole game, and try to wear me out. My teammates did a really good job of screening for me and getting me some open looks. In the end they got the best of us, but we fought hard.”

“We didn’t play well enough to win and we’re not going to accept it,” Lickliter said. “I think we are a better team having played this team.”

Iowa travels to Evanston, Ill., to take on Northwestern on Saturday with a 1:05 p.m. tipoff.

“We’re holding up fine,” Kelly said. “We’re just looking forward to the next game. We know we fought hard and aren’t going to hang our heads on this one. We just have to move on to Northwestern.”