It feels like we've been here before. A close, winnable game at the end? Shades of the Indiana game last Monday. A hot start (7-0) that evaporates after a late first half run by the opposition? Been there, done that with Michigan on Sunday. Not surprisingly, we find ourselves with the same result as those two games: a loss. Iowa drops to 0-3 in the Big Ten, digging their hole a little deeper in the quest to get back to the postseason. The fact that Iowa lost this game wasn't hugely surprising -- especially after star player Roy Devyn Marble was ruled out with a sprained ankle -- with the quality of the opposition (Iowa's third-straight ranked opponent), but that doesn't make it any less painful, particularly given how winnable this game was.
Iowa had a few good runs in the first half -- the 7-0 opening spurt, a 13-2 stretch minutes later -- but a 10-2 run by Michigan State at the end of the half put them right back in the game. Iowa led 28-24 at halftime. Unfortunately, the offensive malaise that afflicted Iowa at the end of the first half carried over into the second half. From the 8:23 mark of the first half to the 16:28 mark of the second half -- almost 12 minutes of game time -- Iowa made only one field goal, an Aaron White dunk at the 1:42 mark of the first half. Over that span, Iowa missed 14 field goals and had 7 turnovers. The fact they still had a lead was remarkable; it helped that Michigan State missed 10 field goals and had 5 turnovers themselves. If Jim Ross had been calling this game, he would have called it "bowling shoe ugly."
Predictably, Michigan State's poor shooting couldn't last forever and they eventually started making shots and they finally took their first lead of the game at 43-42 with 9 minutes to play. Sparty pushed that lead to 46-42 before a 9-3 Iowa run, keyed by two three-pointers from Zach McCabe and a three-point play from Melsahn Basabe, gave Iowa a 51-49 lead. When Basabe scored four straight points to give Iowa a 55-51 lead with two minutes to play, it looked like Iowa might pull out a win after all. Unfortunately, that's when the wheels came off Iowa's wagon.
Here's a log of the remaining possessions in the game:
1:51 53 MSU 55 IOWA: Keith Appling made jumper
1:34 53 MSU 56 IOWA: Foul on Adreian Payne, Melsahn Basabe makes one of two free throws
1:15 53 MSU 56 IOWA: Keith Appling misses three-pointer, but gets offensive rebound
1:04 56 MSU 56 IOWA: Aaron White fouls Gary Harris on a three-point attempt; Harris makes three free throws
0:54 56 MSU 56 IOWA: A terrible Mike Gesell pass leads to a turnover
0:49 58 MSU 56 IOWA: Branden Dawson gets a breakaway dunk on the aforementioned turnover
0:35 58 MSU 57 IOWA: Foul on Gary Harris, Aaron White makes one of two free throws
0:35 58 MSU 57 IOWA: Rebound by Gary Harris; Basabe gets tackled during the play -- no call
0:20 60 MSU 57 IOWA: Foul on Gesell, Keith Appling makes two free throws
0:16 60 MSU 58 IOWA: Foul on Travis Trice, Anthony Clemmons makes one of two free throws
0:13 60 MSU 58 IOWA: Clemmons gets offensive rebound, fouled by Keith Appling
0:13 60 MSU 59 IOWA: Clemmons makes one of two free throws
0:09 62 MSU 59 IOWA: Foul on Gesell, Keith Appling makes two free throws
0:01 62 MSU 59 IOWA: Clemmons air balls three-point attempt
That... is not finishing strong. The turnover by Gesell was bad. The free throw shooting was worse. Michigan State made 7/7 free throws in this stretch; Iowa made just 4/8. Absolutely brutal.
Bad free throw shooting was very costly at the end of the game, but turnovers were a problem throughout the game for Iowa. 18 turnovers is simply far too many turnovers for a team to make and still have a good shot at winning the game, especially against a good opponent. Annoyingly, several of the turnovers were just mental mistakes, rather than miscues forced by Michigan State's defense. MSU has a good defense, but too often Iowa would make a silly pass or simply lose control of the ball, even with minimal contact from a Spartan player. Fran challenged the team to play tougher in the wake of Sunday's blowout loss in Ann Arbor; they did play tougher* (for the most part)... unfortunately, they also played stupider.
But, the walk-before-you-can-fly mentality doesn’t seem to register with Fran McCaffery, who had no problem calling out his team’s toughness, or lack of it, at the offensive end in his Iowa team’s 62-59 loss to Michigan State at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
“Didn’t play with any toughness,” McCaffery said. “No, did not. And that’s disappointing. Offensively we played with no toughness whatsoever.”
On an individual level, Iowa got a decent game from Aaron White (11 points on 4/6 shooting, 6 rebounds) and season-best performances from Zach McCabe (15 points on 6/9 shooting, 7 rebounds) and Melsahn Basabe (14 points on 5/5 shooting, 3 rebound). McCabe and Basabe were instrumental in giving Iowa a chance to win in the second half of this game and did a commendable job of stepping up to fill the void left by Marble. Unfortunately, Anthony Clemmons had a pretty lousy game (4 points on 1/9 shooting and 2/4 free throw shooting, 5 assists, 4 turnovers), Adam Woodbury and Gabe Olaseni were a complete non-factor (2 points on 1/4 shooting, 3 rebounds, 1 block, 3 turnovers in just 17 combined minutes), and Josh Oglesby had another lousy shooting performance (0/4 overall, 0/3 from long range).
This loss stings, but Iowa can't afford to let it linger -- they have a game at Northwestern on Sunday and avoiding an 0-4 hole to start Big Ten play would be very nice. Let's hope Marble is healthy to go for that game (the announcers indicated he wold be**) and that Fran & Co. can get the team to put this loss behind them. The last thing we need is to have Michigan State beat us twice.
** Although Fran said he was "iffy" to play in that game.
P.S. Yes, the officiating stunk in this game. It was baffling what was a foul and what wasn't. But it was pretty terrible on both ends and Iowa made so many self-inflicted wounds -- Jim Burr wasn't the one throwing terrible passes or bricking free throws, remember -- that it's hard to get too worked up about the performance of the zebras in this game.