Jan. 9, 2010
IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) - Michigan State coach Tom Izzo had just watched his Spartans throttle Iowa by 18 points on the road, and yet he looked like a guy whose team had just lost at the buzzer.
Such are the high expectations Izzo has for his team -- and the low expectations almost everyone has for the struggling Hawkeyes.
Raymar Morgan added 12 points for the Spartans (13-3, 3-0 Big Ten), who opened the second half with a 12-0 run that buried the last-place Hawkeyes (5-11, 0-4).
Michigan State also shot 55 percent from the floor and outrebounded Iowa 38-22. But all Izzo could see was a sloppy defensive effort in the first half and 18 Spartans turnovers.
"The turnovers is something that's been haunting us all year. As a coach I think I have to take responsibility for that," Izzo said. "It doesn't seem to be changing, which means I must not be doing my job. So that's going to be a point of emphasis."
Despite Izzo's pessimism, Michigan State has put itself in position to take control of the Big Ten race. The Spartans play their next three at home -- where they're 9-0 -- against Minnesota, Illinois and the Hawkeyes.
Matt Gatens had 16 points to lead Iowa, which has lost four straight and six of its last eight.
The Spartans let the hapless Hawkeyes hang around in the first half and led just 36-28 at the break.
Once Michigan State asserted itself, though, there was little inexperienced Iowa could do about it.
Lucas, Morgan and Delvon Roe all hit jumpers to open the second half, giving the Spartans a 44-28 lead. Lucas then found a streaking Morgan for layups on back-to-back possessions to help Spartans jump ahead by 20, 48-28, with 14:36 left.
Michigan State's Korie Lucious pushed it to 53-32 with a 3. Green then leapt toward the basket, but when the dunk wasn't there he settled for a runner to make it 63-39 with 7:09 left.
Green's performance was one of the few bright spots for the Spartans -- at least according to Izzo.
"He's just all over the place doing a lot of great things," Izzo said. "He's going out and finding ways to score points. He doesn't need anyone passing him the ball. When you've got that for a sixth man, boy you've got a diamond."
Iowa's starters committed 15 turnovers and had just seven assists, sending the Hawkeyes to their four straight Big Ten loss by at least 11 points.
Izzo had viewed the matchup with the Hawkeyes as a trap game, because the Spartans had cooled off streaking Northwestern 91-70 and got past No. 17 Wisconsin 54-47 in a grueling affair at the Breslin Center on Wednesday night.
The Spartans fell into that trap two years ago, losing to a mediocre Iowa team 43-36 in one of their worst games under Izzo. Though Spartans drilled the host Hawkeyes by 15 points last season, they came out for the second half as if that disaster from 2008 was still fresh on their minds.
Michigan State shot 63.6 percent from the floor in the second half, an effort Lucas said was keyed by its defense. The Spartans held Iowa scoreless for nearly six minutes in pushing its lead to 20 early in the second half.
"We had to get stops, we had to get our running game going. That's all we did in the second half that we didn't do in the first half," Lucas said.
With two freshmen and two sophomores in its starting lineup, Iowa was expected to finish in the Big Ten cellar this season. Nothing the Hawkeyes have done so far suggests those prognosticators were wrong.
Iowa fell behind by at least 20 points in the first half of its last two outings, losses to Minnesota and at Illinois.
Iowa started this one strong, jumping ahead 13-9 on an Eric May 3. The Spartans responded with a 14-2 run, though, and never trailed again.
"Somebody has to be the underdog. We don't mind it," Iowa coach Todd Lickliter said. "What I don't want them to get used to is less than what they can do. I don't want them to every be satisfied or expect less than what they are capable of."
Freshman point guard Cully Payne had nine points but five turnovers for the Hawkeyes, who shot just 1-of-10 from 3-point range in the second half.
"All in all it wasn't vintage us, but you have to give [Lickliter] and his team credit. I know it's been tough with all those freshmen," Izzo said. "We're just not in sync yet."