Iowa took control of the game in the early minutes and never let go, not even close, en route to a 76-59 demolition of Michigan State at East Lansing. Peter Jok bombed on MSU for 19 first-half points en route to a game-high 23, and Jarrod Uthoff contributed a double-double with 15 and 10 boards even as he slogged through a cold shooting day (5-for-17 from the field).
And your money quote from @Mr_Uthoff: "We knew we were the better team from the get-go. We wanted to go out and prove it. And we did."— Chad Leistikow (@ChadLeistikow) January 15, 2016
Fortunately for Uthoff, the rest of his teammates filled the tin admirably, especially in the first half when Iowa established a borderline surreal 47-25 lead by the break. The Spartans eventually mounted something of a comeback after falling behind by as many as 23, but it came awfully late in the game and only got them to within 13—or exactly the final margin at Carver-Hawkeye after 40 minutes earlier this season. Iowa staved off any further damage and closed this one out without any drama, and for the second straight road game, the Hawkeyes waltzed into a frenetic environment and shut the place down.
Probably the most impressive aspect of the game was that Mike Gesell watched Iowa establish its dominant lead from the sideline after picking up two quick fouls in the opening 2:30 of the game. Rather than being out of whack without its distributor, Iowa simply set to ratcheting up the defensive intensity and manufacturing open looks from deep. And it worked beautifully; between Gesell's second foul and the end of the half, Iowa went on a 42-18 spree in front of the bewildered Izzone. In Gesell's stead, Anthony Clemmons was once again an absolute rock in his 31 minutes in ways that don't show up on the scoresheets; he finished with 13 points.
Michigan State was hounded by turnovers (16, most of which came in the first half) and while some of that was sloppy play—to say nothing of some curiously permissive officiating, on both sides of the court—Iowa deserves a lot of credit for its half-court traps that disrupted the Spartans' offensive rhythm, especially when Valentine had the ball. Matt Costello was once again efficient in the Spartans' loss, and Iowa still doesn't really have much of an answer once opposing bigs get the ball in good position, but Adam Woodbury and Dom Uhl were once again strong in low post defense and ball denial.
Even with his prolonged stint on the bench, Gesell took over the game down the stretch, for better or worse, and too many of the Hawkeyes' late plays were designed to run as much of the clock as possible with the ball in his hands. But he never got flustered by MSU's pressure defense, never got careless with the ball, and finished with a just-fine eight points and six assists on the night. The difficulty level on a few of them was impressively high, including a fastball entry to Adam Woodbury that had roughly a thimble's room of clearance.
Iowa predictably went cold from behind the arc as it regressed to the mean after halftime (9-for-15 before, 1-for-6 after) but Fran McCaffery deserves a world of credit for adjusting to more of an inside offense at the break. There aren't many teams with the discipline to set the world on fire from deep early, then only take six threes afterward. After the Hawkeyes spent the first 17 minutes of the game without attempting a single free throw, they finished with 16 attempts, only two of which came on intentional fouls (both made by Clemmons).
This is as unintimidated as Iowa basketball has looked in a long, long time, especially considering the venue. And you know what? This all actually felt a little familiar. Iowa goes on the road to a Top 5 team who's looking for revenge, facing a deafening sea of white, shakes off some early struggles then shuts the place up and dominates the rest of the way, winning by double digits? You remember that one? Few years back? Sure you do.
This win is as great as that one. Maybe even better. Never forget: we are the danger.
GO IOWA AWESOME.