By Mike Rabon
Chants of “just like football” reverberated through Carver-Hawkeye Arena Wednesday night as the Hawkeyes put the finishing touches on a declining Spartan squad 72-52. Just like football, Iowa jumped to a seemingly insurmountable lead in the early stages of the game. At halftime on October 30th, 2010 in Kinnick Stadium, Iowa led powerhouse Michigan State 30-0. The Spartan basketball team managed to record points but the feeling was the same as they trailed 41-20 as the buzzer sounded to conclude the first half.
Michigan State turned the ball over on consecutive possessions to start the game and Iowa took advantage by capitalizing with a Matt Gatens 3 pointer and an Eric May jump shot. Reserve Center Derrick Nix returned the favor by scoring a lay-up on Jarryd Cole and then the floodgates opened. A variety of buckets and efficient distribution of the basketball facilitated a 25-6 run for the Hawkeyes. 30-8 read the score with 7:41 left in the first half and surely Tom Izzo’s Spartans were stunned at the determined effort of Fran McCaffery’s bunch.
The Hawkeyes were playing as if they were “mad again” and this was manifest in the 65.5% first half shooting. In a timely fashion, the Iowa defense rotated effectively in the 2-3 zone and held the Spartans scoreless from beyond the 3 point line after 20 minutes of play.
Playing well in the first half is nothing new for this Hawkeye team in 2010-2011. Competitive first half performances against Penn State, Michigan, Ohio State and Iowa State, just to name a few, always lead to the inevitable second half collapse. In this game, the storyline was different. Cole, May, Cartwright and Gatens rallied early in the second half to avoid a letdown. A lay-up by Jarrd Cole and a break away dunk from Matt Gatens secured a 56-30 lead for the Hawkeyes 6 minutes into the second half. This deficit was the largest of the season for the vapid Spartans.
Draymond Green momentarily employed his strength and athleticism with a lay-up and a 3 pointer, which forced Fran McCaffery to burn a timeout. This demonstration was, unfortunately for Michigan State, ephemeral in nature. Gatens, Cartwright and May punished the Spartans in an 8-0 run making the score 70-47 with 4:33 left in the game.
As the time expired, Hawkeye fans who battled the elements to enjoy one more Big Ten basketball game in Carver-Hawkeye Arena stood tall and cheered proudly as the team celebrated with students underneath the basket on newly dubbed Mediacom Court.
Gatens ended the game with 19 points to lead all scorers and 3 other Hawkeyes scored in double-digits. Bryce Cartwright ended his stellar performance with 10 assists to only 4 turnovers. Jarryd Cole just missed a double-double as he recorded 13 points (6-6 FG) and 9 rebounds.
While the celebration was underway in Iowa City, Tom Izzo was melancholic and downright disturbed by his team’s performance.
“Well I think that was the worst performance of a team that I’ve coached since I’ve been at Michigan State. I didn’t feel our best players played very well and then we tried to rely on other people,” Izzo quietly said.
The dichotomy was apparent after listening to Fran McCaffery say, “This is our most complete game without question at both ends.”
Michigan State, a preseason top 5 program, has now fallen to 13-9 overall and 5-5 in Big Ten play. While there is still hope for an NCAA tournament bid in East Lansing, much work and an overhaul in team leadership will have to take place.
“You know, I’m going to make some changes probably. There is going to be some guys that are going to have to grow up. I’m very disappointed with the leadership with this team,” Izzo reiterated in the post game press conference.
Meanwhile, Iowa is still in the beginning stages of a massive rebuilding job but McCaffery was ecstatic about the performance of point guard Bryce Cartwright.
McCaffery praised Cartwright by saying, “He always was a scorer and he could play point and get the ball in the lane. But there’s a lot more to being a point guard, especially at this level, and I’m really proud of him and how hard he’s worked.”
The Iowa Hawkeyes are 9-13 overall and 2-8 in Big Ten play but everyone watching this program closely can see the daily progress of Coach McCaffery and his veteran staff on this dilapidated program.
Iowa will travel to Bloomington on Saturday to face an Indiana Hoosier team they defeated handily in Iowa City 91-77 just a short time ago. The Hoosiers have upset two ranked teams in a row at Assembly Hall, Illinois and Minnesota, and lost a 1 point heartbreaker in East Lansing to the Spartans in overtime. The game will tip-off at 3pm Saturday and both teams will come in fresh off of signature program victories.