After-thoughts from Iowa’s 96-93 loss to Michigan State:
--No, the defense still wasn’t very good. Heck, they gave up 96 points. Even Fran McCaffery didn’t try to tell us the defense was solid. But you had to be thoroughly impressed with the guts, resilience and effort that Iowa showed in this game. It was down by as much as nine points on several different occasions, but fought back to take an 8-point second-half lead. Michigan State, a team that many still feel will end up winning the national title, was completely frazzled and back on its heels before hitting enough shots down the stretch to get the win. It definitely is something for the Hawkeyes to build on. It’s just too bad they have only five games remaining in the regular season.
--There was no shortage of positive statistics for Iowa in this one: The Hawkeyes had 42 points in the paint against a team whose starting front line will end up in the NBA. All five Iowa starters had three or more assists. The Hawkeyes had only eight turnovers (second lowest total of the season) against an extremely athletic team. All great signs.
--For once, the Hawkeyes didn’t give up a bunch of 10-0 and 12-0 scoring runs. Michigan State never strung together more than seven points in a row. Even when the Spartans were coming back from an 81-73 deficit in the final eight minutes, they had to chip away at it in little chunks because the Hawkeyes’ offense was clicking so well at the other end of the court.
--Although his 13 points weren’t a career high, this might have been the best game of Maishe Dailey’s career. Dailey, who had 16 points in a December win over Colorado, knocked down two huge 3-pointers in the second half, the second of which made it 81-73. He finished five for seven from the field, three for five from 3-point range.
--Tyler Cook had another big game with 26 points and a dazzling collection of inside moves and dunks, but maybe his best play of the game was an assist. He came flying down the floor as the middle man on a fast break, drew the defense to him and fired the ball to Jordan Bohannon on the left wing for a 3 that gave Iowa a 68-64 lead with 12½ minutes to go. Not the kind of stuff you see most power forwards do.
--Michigan State had seven dunks in the game, giving opposing teams 17 in the past two outings. Like we said, the defense still wasn’t great.
--Michigan State coach Tom Izzo managed to find an excuse for the fact that his fourth-ranked team beat a sub-.500 club by only three points and probably was fortunate to even do that. He said the fact that his team has had to play five games in 12 days is “really taking a toll on us … I thought we were walking on our knees. Today we were beat, both mentally and physically.’’ Sure, and no one else in the Big Ten has had to play a schedule like that.
--Iowa fans haven’t had a great deal to cheer about this season, but given the opportunity Tuesday, they rose to the occasion. McCaffery admitted he thought with it being an 8 p.m. game, the weather being horrible and the game on national television that the atmosphere might be a bit lacking. “But our fans were amazing,’’ he said. “They were phenomenal tonight.’’