Iowa coach Fran McCaffery explains poor interior defense and an early second-half run that sealed his team's fate vs. Michigan State Hawk Central
EAST LANSING, Mich. — The question entering Monday's basketball game here was how Iowa would respond to its first loss of the season.
The question as the No. 19 Hawkeyes somberly departed the Breslin Center was how they will regroup after their first blowout loss.
This one was bad for the psyche.
Tenth-ranked Michigan State, as it has done so many times before, put the hammer down on the Hawkeyes with a 90-68 win that was far more convincing than that score sounds. Iowa hast lost 12 of its past 14 meetings with the Spartans. This was the most lopsided result since a 95-61 Hawkeye loss here on Jan. 10, 2012.
“We kind of let them have too many looks on the inside. It’s pretty plain to see. We’ve got to do a better job of trying to contain those inside guys, regardless of who’s guarding them,” Hawkeye junior forward Tyler Cook said after his team was outscored 48-20 in the paint.
Michigan State scored its opening basket when Kenny Goins was left alone along the baseline against a Hawkeye zone defense that never put up a fight. Goins made the layup.
The tone was set.
Nick Ward had his way with Iowa all night, making all 10 of his shots to finish with 26 points.
Michigan State was enjoying so much success inside that it rarely needed to even contemplate taking 3-point shots. The Spartans made only three.
Things got so bad in the second half for Iowa that players kept retreating to the bench for medical attention. The big blow may have come when freshman forward Joe Wieskamp appeared to roll his right ankle midway through the second half and limped to the locker room.
He did not return to the bench and is questionable for Thursday’s home game against Iowa State.
“Too early to say about Thursday. We’ll see how he is tomorrow, see how he is Wednesday. It will probably be a game-time decision,” Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said.
Iowa (6-2, 0-2 Big Ten Conference) built a 13-7 lead in the first 3 minutes, 36 seconds. Jordan Bohannon nailed a 3-pointer. Isaiah Moss added one of his own. Wieskamp glided in from the weak side for a putback basket and a foul.
But none of that success was present again for the Hawkeyes in the first half. Those early 3s were the only ones that fell. The Spartans took control of the glass.
Iowa got into foul trouble, forcing starting center Luka Garza to the bench.
Michigan State (7-2, 2-0) made the Hawkeyes pay at every turn. Ward made all six of his shots, all from close range, in the first half and had 15 points. Xavier Tillman came off the bench to add eight, including back-to-back postups over the 6-foot-6 Wieskamp when the Hawkeyes were trying to make up ground with a small lineup.
“We did a poor job in the zone, got isolated on our small forward a couple of times. That’s a tough cover for them,” Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said. “Luka getting in foul trouble. I thought we had the best shot with him against them. … I tried to keep Cook off of them in that spot. He played them a little bit. I needed to have him on the other end. I couldn’t make that move.”
Iowa forward Tyler Cook calls Michigan State loss "a hiccup," says it will not define Hawkeyes' season Hawk Central
The Spartans outscored Iowa 26-14 in the paint in the first half and led 43-33 at halftime.
Somehow, things got dramatically worse for the Hawkeyes out of the break. They missed 15 of their first 16 shot attempts in the second half, while the Spartans pushed them all over the court.
Iowa was playing its only true road game of the opening two months of the season, and it looked like a shadow of the team that went into Madison Square Garden 2½ weeks ago and knocked off Oregon and Connecticut to win the 2K Classic tournament.
“It just kind of snowballed quickly,” McCaffery said of Michigan State’s 9-0 run to start the second half. “I thought about calling a timeout really on the second basket, but I didn’t, in case we needed it at the end. And probably should have.”
The rematch with Michigan State comes Jan. 24 in Iowa City.
But there's a much bigger game in Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Thursday.
Whatever befell the Hawkeyes on Monday must be eradicated by the time that one tips off. Or a two-game losing streak will quickly become three.