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Iowa 84, Michigan State 78: Exhale

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Too big to fail

NCAA Basketball: Michigan State at Iowa Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Luka Garza scored his 2,000th career point—good for second all-time in program history behind Roy Marble—in a 27-point, 12-rebound outing where Iowa bested Michigan State, 84-78.

It looked as though Iowa was going to be in for a long night—and perhaps a long February—the first quarter of the game.

The Spartans shot about as hot as a team good at the outset, making their first six attempts from deep, amassing an 11-point lead following a Rocket (!) Watts three about 10 minutes in.

But Aaron Henry seemed to tire himself out after scoring 10 points in the game’s first six minutes. Iowa’s commitment to the press may have helped, too, as Fran McCaffery threw out healthy doses of Joe Toussaint, Keegan Murray, Tony Perkins and Ahron Ulis a bit earlier and more liberally than he has all season.

With no one not named Luka Garza able to create anything offensively (and CJ Fredrick getting some quick whistles) we saw Toussaint and Jack Nunge shoulder some of the scoring load, with the other big man knocking down a pair of threes to pad 11 first half points and 7 rebounds.

Iowa finally knotted it up after Garza knocked down a pair of free throws. He then gave Iowa the lead on a jumper the following possession. Five points from Nunge and an incredible end of half possession from Ulis resulted in a trip to the line for the freshman, two easy points, and a 48-43 lead at the break.

A three from Garza early in the second frame gave him his 2,000th point. A more jubilant atmosphere, our Peacock deserved.

He followed that up with a made free throw, and then the Spartans made a little run after Joshua Langford and Joe Wieskamp traded threes.

Michigan State went on an 8-0 tear and knotted it back up to 57. Garza followed up a Henry 3 (he shot 4-5 from deep, ending with 24) with a jumper of his own, but two straight tip-ins from Julius Marble put Michigan State back at 61-59 with 12 minutes to play, and it was a tug-of-war thereafter.

A string of points from Patrick McCaffery and Toussaint created some fireworks, and really Iowa should’ve just been handed the game after an incredible feed from JT to P-Mac, a good video of which I can’t find on Twitter at the moment.

A lineup of Garza, Toussaint, Perkins, Murray and McCaffery kept things afloat for Iowa before a stretch of too much Joey Hauser and Henry made it a three-point game. Bohannon and Wieskamp got back in to keep the clamps off Garza, and finally Bohannon sunk some free throws to seal the deal.

I don’t care about Michigan State’s record, beating Tom Izzo is always good. A loss here felt like it could’ve been a wheels falling off moment, or at least the beginning of a fabled Fran February Fade, but that discussion rests for at least another week now as we prepare for a hot Ohio State team on Thursday.

Musings

  • Iowa finished the game 23-35 from the charity stripe. Look, that sucks, and if Iowa were to have lost this game, that’s the thing I’d point my bugle fingers at in disgust. But Iowa won, Fran’s teams typically shoot just over 75% from the freebie zone, and we should be glad that Iowa took at least some advantage from #BigTenRefs after last Friday.
  • I’m still worried about CJ Fredrick’s health. And with Bohannon’s swoon, I’m very worried about this team’s three ball manufacturing.
  • As concerned as I am about Iowa’s offensive range, I’m just as optimistic as the backstop Fran McCaffery seems to have assembled in Ulis and Perkins. While Ulis only played the final three minutes of the first half, he had the electric exchange I mentioned above, and didn’t look like a guy who’s averaging under 2 minutes a game all year.
  • Toussaint had probably his best game of the year (10 points, 6 assists, +12) and I don’t think it’s a coincidence it came on the night where he logged the most minutes all season (21).
  • There’s a guy on every rec league team who looks just like Foster Loyer, down to the black socks on blacked out sneakers and a t-shirt under the jersey.
  • Rocket Watts.

Ed. note, now with podcast!