Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Spartans blow past Iowa, 95-61, extend winning streak to 15

It was the kind of game where you had to start looking up the last time MSU had won a Big Ten game by this much.

MSU (15-2 overall, 4-0 Big Ten) had to win by at least 38 for it to be MSU's second-largest margin of victory against a Big Ten team, according to the APs Larry Lage. You know what the first is. They had it for much of the second half, but the walk-ons let it slip away in the final two minutes. They showed zero rust having not played a game for a week.

The Hawkeyes (10-8, 2-3) had been on a bit of a roll, winning five of seven entering Tuesday, and had given MSU a lot of problems in three meetings last year. But this isn't last year's team, if that hadn't been established yet.

The Spartans are in the top-7, and now the winning streak is up to 15 games — the third longest under Izzo. Who saw this coming?

Tuesday's game was really never close at all. Iowa never led. With the score 10-5 early, MSU went on a 10-2 run and the game never got any closer. There were some alley-oops among the highlights, including the first oop dunk I've ever seen from Green.

It clearly was MSU's best performance of the season all-around. MSU shot 62 percent and Iowa shot 37 percent. The Spartans had 25 assists on 37 buckets and had 16 steals among Iowa's 21 turnovers. The 16 steals were two shy of the school record. Just domination. So much so that Fran McCaffery got a technical foul out of frustration and let out some more frustration by slamming a chair.

MSU was led, as usual, by Draymond Green, who had 22 points, 10 rebounds, five assists and three steals. Appling was MSU's second-leading scorer with 15 points, but he also had nine assists, zero turnovers and three steals in a great night for him. Appling is starting to become one of the best guards in the conference.

Ten different Spartans scored, and five of them scored in double-figures. Other than the walk-ons who came in late, Branden Dawson was the only Spartan to shoot worse than 50 percent. Russell Byrd was not available, as he was dealing with an illness. Brandan Kearney is earning himself more minutes every day and had a solid night with five points and four assists in 13 minutes.

The only negative for MSU was Iowa's 18 offensive rebounds, but that can happen in an up-tempo game. MSU won the rebounding battle 37-33.

Up next is a trip to Northwestern on Saturday before a trip to No. 13 Michigan a week from tonight. It will be interesting to see if MSU's looks ahead to U-M, as there's no more likely place to look past an opponent than Evanston.

But if MSU plays like it did Tuesday, they'll be right up there battling for the Big Ten crown.

(P.S: There was a lot of talk about the Izzone entering this game. Tom Izzo himself used the media to let everyone know that the student section named after him had been letting him down. The Izzone alumni were great against Indiana, so how would the students respond in the first game back from break?

Well, I watched the game on TV, so I can't speak with much certainty, but it definitely appeared to be louder than it had been. There were creative children's songs while Iowa players were shooting free throws. All-in-all, it seemed that they stepped up their game. But not enough students seem to be jumping up and down. And that's something that isn't just disappearing at MSU. The jumping is more noticed by the TV crowd than the noise is. Otherwise it looks like you're just standing there. Anyway, those are my thoughts on the hot-button Izzone issue).

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