IOWA CITY — The fans came. They saw. They kicked butt.
But Michigan State came, too. They saw the fans. And they kicked butt.
Unfortunately for the Iowa Hawkeyes, only one of those entities played on the court at Carver-Hawkeye Arena last night. And as loud and spirited as the fans were, they didn’t make a single shot. Michigan State, however, did.
The No. 9 Spartans brutalized Iowa with a lightning-quick offensive array and strangled the Hawkeyes into one shot per possession for most of the first half. The second half wasn’t much better for Iowa — despite a season-high 13,640 fans — in a 71-56 Michigan State victory.
“For me, I don’t know where you all were sitting, but there was just like a green blur going past me at a very high rate of speed,” Iowa Coach Todd Lickliter said. “We told our guys and you can show them on tape but I don’t think that you can really understand the speed that they play at in the full court, and then by time we realized it, we were in trouble.”
Iowa (12-9 overall, 2-6 Big Ten) struggled to compete with Michigan State’s speed and size advantage at both ends of the court. Iowa conceded its offense to one shot to ensure its defense could get back and defend in transition. In reality, it didn’t work.
Iowa didn’t secure its second offensive rebound until only 4 minutes, 40 seconds remained in the first half. Overall Iowa was outrebounded 23-9 in the first half and hit just 40 percent of its shots from the field. Michigan State, meanwhile, sank 50 percent.
“You just had to take the best shot you could,” Lickliter said. “You have to have good enough judgment as a player to know you’re not going to get a rebound. It’s futile to try to take the ball away from somebody — the court’s too big to do that. Now you’re behind the play and your teammates are in trouble and a couple of times we stayed back there like …
“Once you’ve made an effort, you need to turn and get back and get your defense set.”
Iowa did a better job in the second half, but lost the rebound battle, 35-28. It was the first half, though, that established the game’s tempo in Michigan State’s favor.
“I think because we were so caught up in trying to get back and it’s tough to go get the rebounds because once you miss it, you’re behind and you put your whole team in a tough spot,” Iowa guard Matt Gatens said. “You just have to pick and choose our spots.”
Iowa struggled to keep up with Michigan State guard Kalin Lucas, who led all scorers with 24 points. Lucas was 9 of 13 from the field and had four assists.
“He can go get a good shot,” Lickliter said. “There’s guys who can get shots, but he can get a good shot about anytime he wants. It makes it tough.”
Sophomore guard Jake Kelly drew the assignment of guarding Lucas. Kelly often guards the opponent’s top ballhandler, but facing Lucas was more difficult that usual.
“He’s a great player. One of the quickest guards I’ve ever played against,” Kelly said. “I think his decision making has been a huge improvement this year. He picks his spots on when he wants to score and when he wants to push it.”
“I think Jake Kelly is a terrific one-on-one defender,” Lickliter said. “Terrific, and he had his hands full with Lucas. And anybody would, in my opinion.”
Offensively, Iowa couldn’t get into a groove early in either half. Iowa didn’t notch its first point until it was down 8-0 with 15:53 left in the first half. Iowa was outscored 15-3 to start the second half and that essentially ended the game.
One bright spot for Iowa was the play of Jarryd Cole, who hit all five shots from the field for 10 points. He also pulled down eight rebounds in 26 minutes. Cole had two thunderous dunks that helped propel the crowd.
“I try to be in a spot where I could make myself a force. I just credit (my teammates) for finding me in open spots,” Cole said.
Iowa dispersed more than 3,200 free tickets to students in a promotion. That led to a vibrant environment, just not the result Iowa had wanted.