March 15, 2013
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CHICAGO — For the first 30 minutes, the University of Iowa men’s basketball team looked like a team poised to advance to the Big Ten semifinals and scan its NCAA Tournament ticket.
It’s a 40-minute game, and Michigan State rallied from a 12-point deficit with 9:27 to play to down the Hawkeyes, 59-56, in the quarterfinals of the 2013 Big Ten Tournament at the United Center in Chicago.
“Iowa outplayed us for 3/4 of that game,” said Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo. “We found a way to luckily, luckily win.”
With 10:24 remaining, junior Zach McCabe’s fast-break layup extended Iowa’s lead to 47-35. The Hawkeyes were cruising, playing their best basketball of the season. But then Michigan State showed its toughness, and it all began to unravel.
The Spartans used a 22-2 run to turn a 12-point deficit into a 57-49 advantage. Michigan State made 9-of-13 attempts during the stretch, while Iowa was 1-of-7 during the same period with five turnovers.
“I have coached in a lot of games, a lot of tournaments and as favorites and underdogs,” said UI head coach Fran McCaffery. “This team deserved a better fate tonight.”
Michigan State opened the run with eight straight points to climb to within four (47-43) with 6:20 to play. Iowa senior Eric May ended the spurt with a double-clutch jumper to give Iowa a 49-43 advantage with 5:43 left.
Michigan State proceeded to reel off 14 consecutive points to flip the momentum. Garry Harris’ 3-pointer gave the Spartans its first lead at 50-49 with 4:10 to play, Keith Appling followed with a layup, Derrick Nix with a three-point play, and Adreian Payne’s layup completed the run.
“We tried to keep our poise,” said Marble. “We knew they were a really good team. The goal for us is to limit the runs. We had the lead, so all we had to do was keep our poise and try to make plays down the stretch also. They knocked down the shots, and we didn’t.”
McCabe ended the second drought with a pair of free throws before sophomore Aaron White hit a 3-pointer from the top of the key to make it a 57-54 game with 1:33 remaining. Junior Melsahn Basabe’s jumper with 1:04 left then cut the margin to 57-56.
Defensively, the Hawkeyes then buckled down on the Spartans’ next possession, forcing an off-balance attempt with three seconds left on the shot clock, but Harris was bailed out by a foul by White, and he converted both free throws to extend the margin to 59-56 with 29 seconds remaining.
Iowa had two looks to tie the game. Basabe fired up the first 3-pointer — the first of his career — but the Hawkeyes got the offensive rebound to get another chance. With nine seconds left, Marble had a step-back attempt off an out-of-bounds play, but it hit the back iron to send Michigan State to the Big Ten semifinals.
“It felt good and looked good,” said Marble. “Sometimes they fall and sometimes they don’t.”
Iowa didn’t have a player reach double figures, but a total of 10 Hawkeyes scored. Freshman Mike Gesell led the team with nine points on 2-of-3 shooting. Marble scored eight points, making 3-of-9 attempts and 2-of-6 3-pointers. He also had four assists. Basabe scored eight points and grabbed a team-high eight rebounds.
Iowa shot 45.5 percent (5-of-18) from the field and 27.8 percent (5-of-18) from 3-point range. The Hawkeyes were also 11-of-12 from the free throw stripe. Michigan State shot 51.9 percent in the second half and 38.6 percent (22-of-57) for the game. The Spartans made 3-of-15 3-pointers and 12-of-16 free throws. Michigan State had a 34-27 advantage on the glass and forced Iowa into 19 turnovers.
“We turned the ball over too much,” said McCaffery. “We had 19 turnovers. We felt coming in we needed to turn it over less than the last time we played them (18 on Jan. 10). And we needed to limit their offensive rebounding, and they got 16.
“Overall I thought our defense was really good, we were able to run and our execution was pretty good. In the second half we had more difficulty running our stuff, but overall I was proud of how we kept fighting.”
Payne led a trio of Spartans in double figures, finishing with 18 points and 10 rebounds. Appling and Harris netted 13 points apiece.
After taking a 10-point lead into the half, the Hawkeyes pushed their advantage to a game-high 13 points on a three-point play from Gesell to start the second half. Iowa kept applying the pressure, as it led 32-31 with 13:56 remaining following a fast break dunk by Anthony Clemmons and a 3-pointer by McCabe put Iowa up 12 with 12:15 left.
The Hawkeyes got off to as good of a start as they could have hoped, building a 9-2 lead over the first five minutes. Iowa led 13-6 at the 13:32 mark as seven different players accounted scored to start the game.
Iowa pushed its lead to 17-9 lead with 10:49 remaining in the half, and it led 20-12 at the 7:18 mark following a 3-pointer by sophomore Josh Oglesby. The Hawkeyes kept Michigan State at bay, leading by at least six points for most of the half.
The Hawkeyes took a 30-20 lead into the break when sophomore Aaron White and freshman Anthony Clemmons connected on back-to-back jumpers. Eight Iowa players scored in the first half, which led to a 13-0 advantage in bench points.
Iowa shot 50 percent (10-of-2) from the floor and made 8-of-9 free throw attempts over the opening 20 minutes. Michigan State had 10 more field goal attempts, but the Hawkeyes’ defense limited the Spartans to 8-of-30 shooting (26.7 percent), which included an 0-of-8 effort from long range.
The Hawkeyes (21-12) will now await their postseason fate, and Iowa still feels like it belongs in the NCAA Tournament.
“I think it’s clear with what we have done that we should be in the NCAA Tournament,” said McCaffery. “I respect the job the committee has, I know it’s difficult, and there are a lot of other folks that feel the same way, but when you look at all the numbers, they bare out that we should be in.
“I don’t think you want to lock into one particular number, you want to look at all of them, and if you do that, you see where we stack up.”
“I think we deserve to be in the NCAA Tournament,” said May. “I’m really proud of my team, we’re a really good team, and we fought all season long. Wherever we’re playing, we’re going to play our tails off next week.”