IOWA CITY — Iowa coach Fran McCaffery wanted toughness. He got half of what he wanted.
The Hawkeyes were everything they weren’t on defense in Thursday night’s 62-59 loss to No. 22 Michigan State at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. Iowa held MSU to 40.4 percent (23 of 57) shooting and went toe-to-toe in rebounds (MSU holding a 36-35 edge).
The offense was the half that wasn’t there.
The Hawkeyes had 18 turnovers and allowed the Spartans to transition that into a 24-10 edge in points off turnovers.
“Offensively, we played with no toughness whatsoever,” a steamed McCaffery said in the postgame. “Defensively, we did. On the glass, we did. But you have the other end of the floor, OK? 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 lay-ups. Here we are working hard to stop them and giving them lay-ups off turnovers. Can’t do it.”
The play that punctuated McCaffery’s point came with 48 seconds left. Iowa guard Mike Gesell picked up his dribble and had an MSU defender all over him. MSU forward Branden Dawson tipped the ball out of Gesell’s hands for a breakaway dunk that gave the Spartans a 58-56 lead they would hold.
“Toughness is going to be one of the things we need to build a foundation on,” Gesell said. “If you’re the tougher team, you’re going to win a lot of basketball games. I thought we were tough on defense, the rebounding was pretty close, but there are a few things we need to improve on.”
Shouldering the load
If the theme is toughness, then MSU guard Gary Harris deserves special mention.
For the second time this season, Harris’ left shoulder popped out of joint, limiting the freshman guard to 14 minutes in the first half. With 1:04 left in the game and after Iowa took its final lead on a three-point play by forward Melsahn Basabe, Harris was fouled by Aaron White on a 3-point attempt.
He made all three free throws to tie the game. Iowa even tried to ice him on the third attempt with a timeout. He finished with 14 points, five rebounds and three assists.
“He said he wanted to go in as he held his left arm down around his ankles,” Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said. “That kid’s got some heart.”
When Marble is healthy . . .
Iowa guard Devyn Marble missed Thursday night’s game with a sprained ankle and toe on his right foot. The Hawkeyes leading scorer (15.5 points a game) was deemed out of the lineup on Thursday morning and was replaced by senior Eric May.
May scored five points and contributed seven rebounds, but he didn’t displace Marble.
McCaffery said Marble is iffy for Sunday’s game at Northwestern (10-6, 1-2 Big Ten), but gets his spot back when he’s healthy.
“Devyn starts when he’s healthy, no question about that,” McCaffery said. “Eric will go back to the bench if Dev is okay.”
Marble had started 42 consecutive games before missing Thursday.
“Once we found out this morning he wasn’t going to go, you’ve just got to deal with it and play with the guys we’ve got,” White said. “We did that. I’m not going to blame the loss on not having Dev. We had plenty of guys.”
MSU coach Tom Izzo was frank in his comments. It wasn’t a pretty game, but he was extremely happy to get out of Carver-Hawkeye with a 62-59 victory Thursday night.
Iowa forward Melsahn Basabe led the Hawkeyes with 15 points off the bench. He was one of the few elements of Iowa’s offense that worked in the loss to the Spartans.
Senior F Eric May replaced Iowa’s leading scorer Devyn Marble in the lineup on Thursday. He scored five points and grabbed seven rebounds. He talks about what’s ahead for the Hawkeyes, who are now 0-3 in the Big Ten.
Freshman guard Mike Gesell struggled against the defensive-minded Spartans, scoring six points on 3 of 6 and coughing up four turnovers. He talks about growing up in the Big Ten.
Iowa F Zach McCabe scored in double figures for the first time since the season opener with a season-high 15.
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