Carver Hawkeye Arena
Iowa City, IA
It was supposed to be a fight among heavyweights, but with MSU entering the game down two starters few thought it would be. They were wrong. Like two seasoned warriors neither team played well, but both played with heart and guts and the Spartans pulled out the overtime win 71-69.
The atmosphere was loud and amazing.
MSU head coach Tom Izzo said, “They did not play their best, they are a better team than that,” Talking about the improving Hawkeyes.
Izzo defense held Iowa to 37% shooting from the field, 25% from three and 69% from the line. A stat made even bigger by the fact Iowa shot 23 more free throws than MSU and missed 13. They were an abysmal 30 of 43.
Still Izzo wasn’t happy. “I thought it (his defense) was good, not sure great. We just got some ball out of other people.”
Hawkeye Coach Fran McCaffery had stronger words for his team. “I just didn’t think we were tough enough. We weren’t tough at all. That’s part of it, you know. We got to challenge guys to be better than they are. Toughness is both physical and mental.”
McCaffery had high praise for Izzo and the Spartans. “They’re 18-2. They were preseason number one. They’re three, five, six wherever they’re at. You’ve got to go through them if you want to win a championship. Doesn’t matter what happened when we played them last year or two years ago. It was different teams.”
Izzo thought the Hawkeyes may have been, “Overhyped,” but his colleague disagreed. McCaffery said, “I don’t think that had anything to do with it.”
On a night that MSU was clearly not their best, they won the biggest game of the year. Considering the health of this team that can’t excite anyone left on the schedule.
The Iowa coach addressed MSU playing down so many players and what he said probably reverberated throughout college basketball. He said, “When it is all said and done, they’ll (MSU) be better for this.”
Izzo is not one to praise, but even he had to confess that his former Mr. Basketball Matt Costello, “Played the best game of his life.” Costello had his first career double double going with 12 rebounds and 11 points. Keith Appling dropped 16 points, Denzel Valentine had 12 and Travis Trice knocked down 10.
On a night that Gary Harris, the man Izzo calls his, “best player” did not play his best, Harris teammates pulled it out. A smiling Harris said after the game, “That feels great to see that we have a lot of guys that can step up and win games around here. This isn’t about one player.”
The Spartans next game is Saturday in a rare out of conference mid-season matchup in New York City at the legendary Madison Square Garden. The will face the Hoyas of Georgetown. That matchup can be seen on Fox Sports with a 3PM tip off as part of Super Bowl Weekend in Gotham.