Iowa takeaways: Clemmons' sweet night, Izzo's complaint
EAST LANSING, Mich. – Iowa guard Anthony Clemmons, wearing a black stocking cap with “Lansing” emblazoned in green across it, received a hero's welcome as he walked onto the Breslin Center floor following Iowa’s 76-59 blitz of fourth-ranked Michigan State.
About 20-25 family members were there for individual hugs, which Clemmons was happy to provide. He certainly earned every one of them.
The product of Lansing’s Sexton High School again got the best of his two former prep teammates wearing Spartan green, Denzel Valentine and Bryn Forbes, in the 16th-ranked Hawkeyes’ signature win.
“I wanted to come out and leave my mark,” Clemmons said. “I wanted to come out and fight, and lead by example.”
He did, battling through the expected trash talk from Valentine – who told him early on, “You’ve got a red dot on your head.”
Clemmons was indeed viewed as a marked man in this game. He had been instrumental in Iowa’s 83-70 win 17 days earlier over the then-No. 1 Spartans, who played without Valentine on that day. Clemmons held Forbes to three points in that game, two on Thursday. Forbes averages 14.4. One of Michigan State’s most dynamic players was rendered useless.
“Forbes was out the game. I mean, he was out of the game,” Spartans coach Tom Izzo said.
Clemmons had everything to do with that, even on a balky right hip. The 6-foot-2 senior used every one of the nine days between Iowa’s games to get treatment on and rest his injury suffered two weeks ago at Purdue.
“My hip felt really good. I was able to move laterally quicker,” Clemmons said. “My adrenaline pretty much popped in. I wasn’t feeling any pain or anything. I was able to play at the best of my ability.”
It was a good thing. He logged 31 minutes, running a lot of point guard with Mike Gesell in foul trouble, and scored 13 points (nearly double his average).
“To have those two wins this year, my senior, it feels really good,” Clemmons said. “Just happy. My guys came ready to play.”
So much for that layoff
Jarrod Uthoff wasn’t thrilled about nine days off between games, Iowa’s longest Big Ten Conference off stretch in 23 years. But the Hawkeyes certainly shed speculation that they'd be rusty by storming to a 47-25 halftime lead in one of the nation’s toughest road venues.
“Usually nine days, you get in a little bit of a lull. You don’t really get in game shape,” Uthoff said. “You’re practicing, and it can be tough. I think everybody on the team did a real nice job of staying in the gym and staying locked in.”
Iowa coach Fran McCaffery was comical about it, saying it felt like Iowa’s previous game – a 77-66 win over Nebraska on Jan. 5 – was “a month ago. So I guess my answer would be I didn’t know. I’ve never been through this before.”
Learning from Iowa State
Iowa players admit they grew from the Dec. 10 loss at Iowa State, the 83-82 heartbreaker after blowing a 20-point lead in the second half. Maybe McCaffery learned a thing or two, as well.
He went only seven-deep in the second half in Ames. Thursday, he went nine-deep, and in the first half he also used freshman Christian Williams at point guard for four minutes for his first career Big Ten action.
Freshman Ahmad Wagner didn’t play against the Cyclones. But Thursday, McCaffery depended on Wagner for four key minutes and he responded with a slew of hustle plays – two rebounds, two steals and a block.
“When you play Michigan State and you play them here, you have to play with a lot of energy. We also had a little bit of foul trouble … so we needed to go to Christian, we needed to go to Ahmad,” McCaffery said. “Dom (Uhl) was spectacular, (Nicholas) Baer was really good, Brady (Ellingson) was solid. That’s the only way you can survive here. You can’t survive with five guys.”
Uhl continues to impress
Give Dom Uhl a top-of-the-key 3-pointer, he’s likely to burn you. The 6-foot-8 sophomore continues to amaze with his versatility.
Uhl scored seven straight points to boost Iowa’s lead to 17-11 early after two wild tip-ins and then a swished 3.
“Those tip-ins kind of got me going. Then I got my first 3,” Uhl said. “I had a little bit of a feeling.”
As much credit as Baer has gotten as an unlikely sparkplug, Uhl may be the biggest bench story. He scored 10 points on 4-of-5 shooting and grabbed five rebounds in 17 minutes Thursday. For the season, he’s shooting 51.6 percent (16-for-31) from deep.
Final shot from Izzo
Izzo had a little bit to say about Thursday’s officiating.
But he conceded that Iowa earned the foul calls; Michigan State was whistled for 11 to Iowa’s six in the second half.
“It seemed like there were some weird calls,” Izzo said. “And yet, I laugh because I’m complaining about it. But it’s just what you learn when you’re in fifth grade. The most aggressive team gets things, and they did.”