Michigan State No. 19 aims to end crisis against Iowa

February 19, 2022; East Lansing, Michigan, USA; Illinois Fighting Illini center Kofi Cockburn (21) grabs a rebound in the first half off Michigan State Spartans goaltender AJ Hoggard (11) and forward Julius Marble II (34) at the Jack Breslin Student Events Center. Mandatory Credit: Dale Young – USA TODAY Sports

Not too long ago, Michigan State was ranked in the Top 10 and leading the Big Ten. Now, the plummeting Spartans no longer hold a spot among the top five teams in the conference.

Losing four of his last five games, the Michigan State No. 19 will look for a win Tuesday against Iowa in Iowa City, Iowa.

In their dive, the Spartans (18-8, 9-6 Big Ten) lost on the road to Rutgers and Penn State as well as at home to Wisconsin and Illinois.

Michigan State never held a lead in their 79-74 loss to Fighting Illini on Saturday. The Spartans were within two points during critical time but couldn’t complete the comeback.

“We haven’t done a good enough job. So overall very disappointed with our first half,” Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said. “In the second half, we scored 52 points against the best defensive team in the league, and we only scored (58 for the game) at Penn State. I think there are always times when you can learn from games. I don’t like to learn from a loss, but I think we learned something from a loss.

Point guard Tyson Walker had his best outing of the season with 26 points and five assists in 26 minutes off the bench. The starting unit had just 40 points for the Spartans, who trailed 34-22 at halftime.

“I didn’t even know I had that many points until I had about a minute left when I looked up,” Walker said. “The shots were just going. I work on those shots there every day, so just take them and the confidence is still there. So there’s never a shot that I don’t think I can do.

A few key players haven’t made their shots lately. Freshman goalie Max Christie has 10 or fewer points in the last six games, and forward Gabe Brown has 10 or fewer points in nine of the last 10 games.

“You can’t be as good when your two best shooters are struggling,” Izzo said. “I think when you hit a three or when you get a dunk or when you do something, of course it energizes everyone.”

Iowa (18-8, 8-7) has won four of its last five, including a 75-62 triumph at Ohio State on Saturday. Forward Keegan Murray led the way with 24 points and his twin brother Kris Murray added 11 points, eight rebounds, two assists and two steals.

The Hawkeyes rebounded from an 84-79 home loss to Michigan two nights earlier.

“Michigan is really good and we fought hard,” coach Fran McCaffery said. “We knew that in less than 48 hours we would be there. You can’t care less, stay positive, stay connected, stay focused and you take a professional approach to laying out the game plan for this one.

Keegan Murray has surpassed the 20-point mark in each of his last six outings. He is averaging 23.4 points, the best on his team.

“It’s not like he just scores into the post or does threes or just does pull-ups,” McCaffery said. “He drives the ball, finishes by contact, he can finish going right or left. He just plays the game with huge confidence, which really impacts his teammates.

–Field level media

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