No. 10 Michigan State played uncharacteristically sloppy and uninspired, yet still rolled past Iowa.
Michigan State’s 71-53 win at Carver-Hawkeye Arena left Spartans Coach Tom Izzo looking for answers and blaming himself. He’s not happy with his player rotations or the team’s execution. Yet the Spartans shot 63.6 percent from the floor against an Iowa defense Hawkeyes Coach Todd Lickliter called “nonexistent.”
So if Izzo challenges his own team and questions his own performance after an 18-point Big Ten road win, what does that say about Iowa?
“Don’t look at it like … we do have a good team. We should have played better,” Izzo said. “That doesn’t mean the score would been different.”
Izzo, whose team is 13-3 overall (3-0 Big Ten) and the defending national runner-up, said Iowa fans need to stay patient with Lickliter despite the team’s 5-11 record (0-4 Big Ten). Izzo said Iowa’s player transfers last spring decimated the program, but that Lickliter is the right guy to turn it around.
“There’s no question they were decimated with those losses last year,” said Izzo, talking about Iowa losing starters Jeff Peterson and Jake Kelly to transfer and four overall. “Surprise losses, if you ask me, of players. You don’t make up for that. It’s like guys leaving early. You don’t make up for that, especially when you don’t have everything together yet.
“I look at this program and I look at Todd personally — he was three and a half hours from us down at Butler — and I saw the job he did there. I know the respect people have for him. This system is going to work.
“In fairness to him, he’s got to keep guys. And some of the guys that left, there were other reasons. It wasn’t Todd. It wasn’t Iowa’s program. (They were) legitimate reasons.”
Last night Iowa played hard but was overmatched in every area. Iowa struggled to keep up with the Spartans in transition or on the boards. Michigan State’s 18 turnovers aggravated Izzo but kept the game close for much of the first half in an eight-point Spartans lead at halftime. Michigan State essentially put the game away with a 12-0 run to open the second half.
Lickliter understands the team’s issues and said the lack of upperclassmen prevents the team from competing against the Big Ten’s upper echelon.
“If we have two veterans, that doesn’t take anything away from Devan Bawinkel and Jarryd Cole, but they’re not veterans,” Lickliter said. “Jarryd didn’t play any in the Big Ten his freshman year, so he’s basically a sophomore. Devan’s only been here and year and half. If we had two veterans to go with this group, I think this would be a team that we could really compete with.”
But Iowa doesn’t have those veterans. Sophomore Matt Gatens, who fought through layers of Michigan State defenders for 12 points, is the team’s designated leader. His goal for the team to stay positive and keep a narrow focus from game-to-game and not worry about the big picture.
“It’s a long season ahead,” Gatens said. “We’ve got a lot of great games ahead, a lot of Big Ten opponents.
“You don’t want to get negativity in the locker room.”
The announced attendance was 9,924. … Gatens remains the team’s leading scorer at 12.8 points a game. He had 16 points and five assists but did not grab a rebound. … Michigan State shot 55.1 percent from the floor for the game. … Michigan State outrebounded Iowa 38-22.