The Michigan State Spartans keep their NCAA tournament hopes alive with a 66-61 first-round win over the Iowa Hawkeyes on Thursday.
Spartans Head Coach Tom Izzo said it best when he said, “It wasn’t the prettiest of games,” as the Spartans and Hawkeyes combined for 28 turnovers in a back-and-forth affair which came down to the very last minute of play.
But it was a pair of Spartans who made the difference with Durrell Summers hitting a couple of clutch free throws down the stretch and Draymond Green putting forth a monster double-double of 21 points and 14 rebounds.
We all know what this means for the Spartans, but where do the Hawkeyes go from here?
By: Nick Grays
Fresh off an upset of Purdue, it was no shock that Iowa came in to this game looking to knock the Spartans off the bubble. Heck, the Hawkeyes already roughed up this Spartans team in a 20-point thumping in Iowa City.
But, it just wasn’t Iowa’s night as they had a critical turnover and failed to covert on a few chances to tie the game in the last couple of minutes.
Matt Gatens forced three-point shot with a hand in his face with seconds left didn’t help much either, even though Iowa Head Coach Fran McCaffery thought it was a good look.
McCaffery couldn’t give enough credit to Izzo’s squad who played with a lot of emotion with a NCAA tourney bid on the line.
“They played better down the stretch and I wish them luck as they move forward in this tournament and the next one,” said McCaffery.
Even with the loss, give credit to the Hawkeyes who made vast improvements as the conference season went on. After beginning Big Ten play as the door-mat of the conference, Iowa turned it around by playing tough at home where they beat Michigan State, Purdue and took Wisconsin to overtime.
“Everyday these guys came with it and respected one another. We have one of the greatest leaders (Jarryd Cole) I’ve ever been associated with and a great captain (Matt Gatens). We will continue to get better,” said McCaffery.
If Thursday’s thriller against the Spartans is any indicator of what direction the Iowa basketball program is going in, it should be a good one.
Junior guard Bryce Cartwright was a bright-spot in the game with 14 points, seven rebounds and six assists.
Looking to next season, the Iowa Hawkeyes will have to get better on the defensive end where they gave up a league-high 72.8 points per game. They also need to find more production from the three-point line where they were only able to convert at a lowly .299 rate.
The Spartans will take on the Purdue Boilermakers in the second round of the Big Ten Tournament on Friday.
Nick Grays is a senior editor at the Sports Bank where he covers the Wisconsin Badgers, Green Bay Packers, Indiana Pacers and Milwaukee Brewers. Follow him on Twitter by clicking here or visit his blog Nick Knows Best.