Unfortunately, for the Iowa men’s basketball team, the Big Ten Conference is proving to be as strong as advertised.
Iowa lost its third consecutive game against a ranked Big Ten opponent to start conference play as No. 22 Michigan State escaped from Carver-Hawkeye with a 62-59 victory on Thursday.
The Hawkeyes, who played without leading scorer Devyn Marble because of an ankle injury, led for most of the game, including by as many as 12 points in the first half, only to fall short at the end.
Michigan State outscored Iowa 11-4 in the final 1 minute, 51 seconds of the second half to secure the victory.
“I don’t think you can look back at this game and go, ‘Oh, this is a game that Devyn didn’t play so that’s why we lost,” Iowa sophomore forward Aaron White said. “We were up by four (points). We were up 10. We were up eight.
“So we had enough guys to win the game. We just didn’t execute it.”
Iowa coach Fran McCaffery criticized his team for lacking toughness for the second game in a row. He did the same thing after last Sunday’s 95-67 loss at Michigan. However, against Michigan, McCaffery was unhappy with his team’s toughness on defense, whereas Thursday it was on offense where he took exception.
He pointed to Iowa having 18 turnovers as an example of his team lacking toughness on offense.
“Offensively, we played with no toughness whatsoever,” McCaffery said. “Defensively we did. On the glass we did. But you’ve got the other end of the floor.
“You can’t turn the ball over 18 times. They don’t change defenses. They don’t press. You can’t turn the ball over 18 times because when you do, it’s dunks and layups.”
Iowa, which fell to 11-5 overall and 0-3 in the Big Ten now faces a quick turnaround with a game Sunday at Northwestern. McCaffery said Marble is “iffy” for the Northwestern game.
Michigan State defeated Iowa for the 10th time in the last 11 games and improved to 13-3 overall and 2-1 in the Big Ten.
“I’m not sure anyone deserved to win or anyone deserved to lose,” Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said. “Both teams had some chances. I thought we made some mistakes and they made some mistakes.”
Iowa had several chances down the stretch to perhaps secure a victory, including when Michigan State point guard Keith Appling missed a 3-point shot with 1:14 left to play. Iowa was leading 56-53 when Appling missed his trey.
However, Michigan State forward Branden Dawson tipped the ball to freshman guard Gary Harris, who was then fouled by White while attempting a 3-point shot. Harris made all three free throws to tie the score at 56-56 with 1:04 remaining.
“We were up three, and we were a rebound away from winning the game,” said junior forward Zach McCabe, who provided a spark for Iowa by scoring a season-high 15 points off the bench. “You just can’t lose. I just hate losing.”
Iowa then missed three of six free throws in the final 34.7 seconds to let the game slip away.
Iowa freshman point guard Anthony Clemmons, who is from Lansing, Mich., missed the second free throw on two occasions in the final 15.4 seconds. He also missed a 3-point attempt at the buzzer that would have tied the score.
Junior forward Melsahn Basabe helped pick up the scoring slack in Marble’s absence by scoring 14 points off the bench. Basabe made all five of his field-goal attempts and was 4-of-5 from the free-throw line.
“Mel and Zach were fabulous; they were fabulous,” McCaffery said. “They did exactly what we needed them to do as juniors coming off the bench. They’ve been through it.”
Basabe said he tried to be more aggressive on offense with Marble not available.
“Devyn wasn’t there, so I knew I had to make myself available,” Basabe said. “The coaches told me a few things that would work and really just relied on them and they were successful.
“And then once you get going, you get into the flow, and I saw the victory. I saw the finish line. So I just tried to drive my team to it the same as everybody else did. It’s just a really disappointing loss.”
McCaffery said his offense suffered without having the 6-foot-6 Marble on the floor. Marble leads Iowa in scoring with a 15.5 per-game average.
Iowa also struggled against Michigan State’s physicality on defense. McCaffery seemed less than pleased with how physical the game was allowed to get.
“It was tough offensively to get the kind of rhythm needed,” McCaffery said of playing without Marble. “They’re a very physical team defensively, and we needed a guy who could break his man down and get to the rim and get to the free-throw line.
“Of course, I don’t know if anybody would have got to the free-throw line that much tonight.”
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes men's basketball