Lackluster defense, missed opportunities lead to 78-71 loss for MSU

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Aleesa Luecker

EAST LANSING – Poor performances happen. In any sport.

A poor performance when you have an opportunity to hold sole possession of third place in the conference stings a little more though.

“A disappointing loss,” head coach Tom Izzo said. “[Iowa] just played harder and better than [MSU] did. We looked like we were in quicksand, right from the get-go.”

Michigan State (17-10, 9-7 Big Ten) men’s basketball returned home after a rivalry win on the road against Michigan, needing a couple of wins at home this week to have a promising chance at returning to the top-25 and improving their postseason tournament seeding.

Coming into the Breslin Center were the Iowa Hawkeyes (16-11, 8-8 Big Ten), looking to get a quad-1 win against Michigan State on the road.

Notching a quad-1 win was exactly what the Hawkeyes did.

MSU came out firing from beyond the arc, dropping in their first four three-pointers. The start of this game had ‘high scoring barn burner’ written all over it.

Missed layups, sloppy ball-handling, and missed opportunities at the free throw line plagued the Spartans moving forward, never allowing them to go in front of the Iowa offense.

A 78-71 loss at home – after the Spartans had been playing their best basketball of the season – was a setback that felt like this team couldn’t afford at this point in the season.

Coming off a three-game stretch where he was the most efficient player on the court, graduate forward Malik Hall walked away from this loss with 16 points, 10 rebounds, and five assists, but even Izzo questioned Malik’s defensive play at times.

This may sound like a broken record, but the center position down low proved to be the difference maker in this contest as well.

Nine-time Big Ten freshman of the week Owen Freeman played himself into foul trouble for Iowa, giving the Spartans an opportunity to produce some points in the paint.

Graduate forward Ben Krikke had other plans. Stepping up to the plate for the Hawkeyes, Krikke had a double-double in 38 minutes, dropping 18 points and corralling 14 rebounds.

Iowa outscored MSU 40-28 in the paint, executing back-door looks and finding easy baskets down low.

With Iowa stealing 14 points off of eight MSU turnovers and Michigan State converting only seven free throws off of 14 attempts, Michigan State shot themselves in the foot in this setback loss.

However, multiple chances presented themselves for the Spartans late in the game, with MSU cutting the Iowa lead to six, seven, and eight on multiple occasions, but execution on defense and poor ball-handling did not allow the Spartans to get over the hump.

“You cannot play bad in this league and win a game,” Izzo said.

Michigan State will look to get back on track – needing to stack a few wins at the end of the regular season to improve tournament seeding – when they host Ohio State on Sunday, Feb. 25 at 4 pm.

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