By Pat Harty
The Iowa men’s basketball team reverted to back to some of its bad habits from last season and the result on Monday at Michigan State brought back memories from last season.
The Spartans shredded Iowa’s defense, especially in the paint, and cruised to a 90-68 victory at the Breslin Center in East Lansing, Mich. Michigan State finished with 31 field goals and 28 assists and had 30 shots at the rim.
Iowa fell to 6-2 on the season and is now 0-2 in Big Ten play.
The 20th-ranked Hawkeyes also started 0-2 in conference play last season and never recovered, finishing 4-14 in the Big Ten and 14-19 overall.
The players vowed to improve on defense during the offseason and Iowa coach Fran McCaffery also placed more emphasis on defense during the offseason.
It seemed to be working after Iowa won the 2K Empire Classic and bolted to a 6-0 record.
But now you have to wonder, considering how woefully Iowa performed on defense in Monday’s game. It was similar to last season when Iowa allowed nearly 80 points per game the way in which Michigan State repeatedly found open looks in the paint and in transition.
The Spartans outscored Iowa 48-20 in the paint with many of the points coming on wide open shots from about two or three feet from the basket.
There still was five minutes left in Monday's game when Michigan State surpassed 80 points.
Making matters worse is that freshman forward Joe Wieskamp left the game midway through the second half with an ankle injury that occurred when he stepped on the foot of teammate Tyler Cook.
Wieskamp's status is uncertain for Thursday's game against Iowa State at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
"He's a tough kid and you know that he's not going to roll around there is there is not something wrong with him," McCaffery said on his Learfield post-game radio show. "He's got a sprained ankle and we'll just have to evaluate it day to day between now and Thursday.
Iowa went over six minutes without scoring in the second half as Michigan State pulled away.
Cook and sophomore center Luke Garza struggled on both ends of the floor throughout Monday’s game. Cook finished with 15 points, but much of it came late in the second half when the game was out of reach.
Michigan State has now won 10 of the last 12 games against Iowa and continued its dominance at the Breslin Center where opponents often struggle. Iowa has won only once at the Breslin Center since 1993 and many of the losses were by double-digits.
So what happened on Monday wasn't unusual. But that shouldn't be an excuse for how Iowa performed. The Hawkeyes were competitive for about three-fourths of the first half, but then offered hardly any resistance in the second half.
"The game should have been closer at halftime based on how we played,," McCaffery said. "But then we lost it at the start of the second half. A couple live ball turnovers as well know is deadly against this team, especially here.
"There were some good things, but overall not a good night."
It wasn't that Iowa lost on Monday that was cause for concern because most visiting teams lose at the Breslin Center. It was the manner in which Iowa lost and the margin of defeat that was discouraging.
Iowa gets a break from Big Ten play, but hardly a break in the schedule with a very talented Iowa State team coming to Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Thursday.
Michigan State junior forward Nick Ward made all 10 of his field-goal attempts and finished with a game-high 26 points. Point guard Cassius Winston also dished out 12 assists and had just one turnover.
"They kept pounding the ball inside and got our bigs in foul trouble, so that hurt us a lot," Iowa junior guard Isaiah Moss said on the Learfield post-game radio show.
The Spartans dominated on both ends of the floor and Iowa now suddenly finds itself searching for answers in a season that just a week ago seemed full of possibilities.
There still are 18 conference games remaining, but Iowa has to fix things in a hurry to avoid digging a hole that is too deep to climb out of in a conference that is filled with quality teams.
Iowa forward Nicholas Baer made a basket to give Iowa a 19-17 lead, but the Spartans answered with five consecutive points and led 22-17 on a free throw by Kenny Goins with 9:46 left in the first half.
Baer made another basket that trimmed the lead to 26-25, but Michigan State answered with a dunk in transition by freshman Aaron Henry.
His dunk triggered a 9-1 scoring run that expanded Michigan State lead to 35-26 on a basket by Xavier Tillmon with 3:44 left in the first half.
Junior point guard Jordan Bohannon made Iowa’s final basket in the first half with 3:17 remaining, trimming the deficit to 35-28.
The rest of Iowa’s points came on five free throws in the final 3 minutes.
Iowa had no answer in the first half for Ward, who made all six of his field-goal attempts before halftime, with most of them coming from just feet from the rim.
Michigan State shredded Iowa’s interior defense in the first half and led 43-33 at halftime despite only making two 3-point baskets in the first half.
Iowa also made just two 3-point shots in the first half, with both coming within the first three minutes of the half.
Michigan State scored 26 points in the paint in the first half and had 15 assists and just two turnovers.
The Spartans began the second half with Josh Langford making a 3-point basket and then just seconds later Iowa sophomore center Luka Garza picked up his third foul and had to go to the bench with 19:01 remaining.
Michigan State scored the first nine points in the second half and Iowa was trailing 52-33 when Bohannon finally broke the second-half scoring drought with 16:14 remaining.