No. 4 Michigan State seeks improvement vs. Iowa
Coming off one of its most unsatisfying victories in recent seasons, Michigan State wants to regain its identity before the biggest game on the conference schedule.
The Spartans snuck out of Indiana with a 63-60 victory on Saturday despite getting pounded on the boards. Indiana out-rebounded them 53-29, a season high by an opponent.
Fourth-ranked Michigan State hosts first-place Purdue this Saturday but must first take care of business against struggling Iowa on the road Tuesday.
"Very seldom does one of our teams get out-worked or out-hustled the way Indiana did it," Spartans coach Tom Izzo said. "The 25-3 difference on offensive rebounds is an insult to me, my players, and anybody who ever played here, I was very disappointed in that. To find a way to win on the road against a team that took Purdue right to the wire, took Duke right to the wire. I think that's an accomplishment. We had a 10-point lead most of the game, but didn't do any of the little things we needed to do to go on and be a great team."
Michigan State (22-3 overall, 10-2) has won six straight but still sits third in the conference behind the Boilermakers and Ohio State. The Spartans will need more production out of their top player, sophomore forward Miles Bridges, to catch up. Bridges took just seven shots against the Hoosiers and finished with seven points and four turnovers.
"I need him to be more into it, but it wasn't his lack of motivation," Izzo said. "They just did a good job and we did a poor job of putting him in a position to score. As always, it's not all his fault. His fault is every loose ball that was there, we didn't get any of them."
Blocking shots were the one thing the Spartans continued to do well. They had 13 rejections, tying their single-game record for a conference game. They established a new record this season against Rutgers. Freshman forward Jaren Jackson Jr. had seven of those blocks against Indiana.
The Hawkeyes (12-13, 3-9) were thumped at Penn State 82-58 on Saturday. The Nittany Lions shot 54.7 percent, scored 50 points in the paint and had 10 dunks. The Hawkeyes shot 38.2 percent and made just one of their 3-point attempts.
Penn State took control with a 9-0 run midway through the first half.
"They made a run. I didn't think we responded there the way we needed to," Iowa coach Fran McCaffrey said. "Sometimes we have a tendency to go 1-on-1 in those situations, which doesn't work for us."
Iowa finds itself in an unusual spot with a sub-.500 record and near the bottom of the conference standings. McCaffrey is trying to keep the team's spirits up.
"We'll just keep drilling them, keep showing them film," he said. "We'll show them the positives. We'll show them the negatives. For the most part, I'll stay positive with the guys, because when you do fall below .500 this time in the season, it's easy to go negative and start blaming. You do that, and then you're not going to get anything."
Updated February 5, 2018
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