Jan. 14, 2016
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By JAMES ALLAN
EAST LANSING, Mich. — The 16th-ranked University of Iowa men’s basketball team completed the regular season sweep of Michigan State, handing the fourth-ranked Spartans a 76-59 defeat on Thursday night at the Breslin Center.
The win is Iowa’s first in East Lansing since 1993 and it is the program’s first regular season sweep of Michigan State since the 1992-93 season. Iowa moves to 13-3 overall and 4-0 in the Big Ten for the first time since 1999; the Spartans are 16-2, 3-2.
“We knew and understood what it was going to take to play well and win here,” said UI head coach Fran McCaffery. “Our guard play was spectacular and our defense and attention to detail based on personnel was about as good as it gets.”
The Hawkeyes used a dominant first half to build a 22-point halftime lead. Iowa sizzled from the floor, connecting on 52 percent (17-of-33) of its field goals and made nine first-half 3-pointers.
Iowa’s defense limited the Spartans to 38 percent shooting; Michigan State made just eight first-half field goals. The Hawkeyes forced the Spartans into 14 turnovers in the first half and capitalized on the mistakes to the tune of a 17-0 advantage in points off turnovers.
“Anthony’s ability to play the point was amazing,” said McCaffery. “He didn’t try to make it about himself or overdo it. To engineer a 22-point lead and mix in scoring and phenomenal defense speaks to his character.”
After playing to a seven-all tie over the first three minutes, Clemmons drained a 3-pointer to give Iowa a 10-7 lead. Sophomore Dom Uhl followed with seven straight Hawkeye points to give Iowa a 17-11 advantage at the first media timeout.
With Iowa leading 20-15, the Hawkeyes reeled off 10 straight points in a two-minute stretch. Back-to-back 3-pointers from Jarrod Uthoff and Peter Jok pushed the lead to 26-15 at the 10:08 mark and a steal and fastbreak layup from Jok pushed the margin to 15 with 8:41 left in the half.
Iowa kept its foot on the gas against the shell-shocked Spartans and shots kept falling. A deep 3-pointer from Uthoff made the score 33-19 with 6:38 left, Uhl hit a long ball to stretch the margin to 17 two minutes later, and Clemmons’ 3-pointer — Iowa’s ninth of the half — pushed the advantage to 39-21 with 3:48 to go.
Jok scored Iowa’s final eight points of the first half, which included a dunk following a Christian Williams steal to push the lead to 47-25 at the break.
“Whenever you can get a big lead in this building against that caliber of team, you feel good about it,” said Clemmons. “But you can’t get too complacent or happy.”
Iowa didn’t blink.
The Hawkeyes maintained their lead and even stretched the margin to a game-high 23 points (60-37) on a Clemmons jumper at the 11:56 mark in the second half. The Hawkeyes led by 22 points with 8:13 remaining before the Spartans clawed their way to within 13 with 2:33 left, but it was too little too late.
“We played like seniors,” said Clemmons. “That’s what you have to do in these types of environments. I am happy that my team was able to come into this building and get a “W” my senior year. I can’t be more proud of my guys in believing in me and letting me help this team win.”
The Hawkeyes cooled off over the final 20 minutes, hitting 34.4 percent of its field goals, but they committed just one turnover in the final 20 minutes with the Spartans’ ears pinned back. Iowa shot 43.1 percent for the game, 45.5 percent from 3-point range, and out-rebounded Michigan State, 39-35.
Jok finished with a game-high 23 points, making 8-of-13 field goals, including three 3-pointers. It was his fourth 20-point game of the season. Uthoff posted his first double-double of the season (fifth of his career), finishing with 15 points and 10 rebounds, while Clemmons had 13 points and two assists in his homecoming.
Uhl chipped in 10 points — all in the first half — and five rebounds, while Gesell had eight points and six assists.
“Dom was unbelievable,” said McCaffery. “He was a big part of what we did to get a 22-point lead.”
The Spartans shot 41.8 percent, but made just 4-of-21 3-point field goals. Michigan State committed 14 turnovers in the contest. Matt Costello led the Spartans with 15 points and nine rebounds; Denzel Valentine had 14 points, five rebounds, and four assists.
Iowa returns to action Sunday, hosting Michigan at 3:30 p.m. (CT) on Mediacom Court. The Wolverines handed No.3 Maryland its first Big Ten loss Tuesday.
“We’re 4-0 (in the Big Ten) and that’s terrific, but we know what we have coming,” said McCaffery. “We have 14 more (league games) and they’re all difficult. (This type of win) makes the next game tougher and bigger.”