Entering tonight’s home game against No. 22 Michigan State with an 0-2 Big Ten record, the Iowa Hawkeyes were in need of a win to remain in contact with the top half of the conference standings.
But without the services of guard Devyn Marble, who missed the game due to an ankle injury, the Hawkeyes shot 4-of-16 from beyond the arc and turned the ball over 18 times in the 62-59 defeat.
Zach McCabe led Iowa with 15 points and seven rebounds, and even with Marble out Fran McCaffery’s team jumped out of the gates ready to go as they scored the first seven points on the game. The Hawkeyes would lead by as many as 12 points, with Michigan State not leading until a Keith Appling basket with 9:01 remaining gave the visitors a 42-41 lead.
Michigan State raised their level of play on the defensive end at the right time however, as Iowa went the final 2:16 without a made field goal. Add to that the Spartans hitting all seven of their free throws in the final 1:04 and it proved to be too much for the Hawkeyes to overcome.
Branden Dawson, whose dunk following an Iowa turnover gave Michigan State a 58-56 lead with 48 seconds remaining, led all scorers with 17 points.
The question for Iowa in the aftermath: how much harm does this do to their NCAA tournament resume?
The Hawkeyes are now 0-4 in games against teams in the Top 50 of the RPI, and while there’s the Marble factor to consider when evaluating this contest tonight’s loss makes Iowa’s game at Northwestern on Sunday night all the more important.
There will be plenty of opportunities for quality wins in Big Ten play, but starting 0-3 in the league makes games that Iowa will be expected to win all the more important to get.
In order to do so the Hawkeyes will not only need a healthy Marble but also have to take better care of the basketball and shoot at a higher percentage.
Entering Thursday’s game Iowa ranked 7th in the Big Ten in field goal percentage and 9th in three-point percentage. Iowa shot better than 50% from inside the arc (19-of-35) but their cold night outside of it was one reason for the defeat.
Can the Hawkeyes rebound? Yes but the turnaround needs to begin soon, because in a league like the Big Ten it doesn’t take much to end up on the wrong side of the bubble.