EAST LANSING, Mich. — Like the Iowa basketball team, Michigan State is employing a great many freshmen this season.
And on Saturday night, the Spartans’ youngsters clearly were just better than the Hawkeyes' kids.
All four of Michigan State’s freshmen scored in double figures and they also combined for 23 rebounds and 12 assists as the Spartans pulled away in the second half to claim a 77-66 victory over Iowa at the Breslin Center.
The Hawkeyes’ road woes continued as they fell to 1-7 in away games and in this case, it looked as though they simply ran out of gas in the second half. They held a slim 32-31 advantage at halftime but trailed by double digits for most of the last 20 minutes.
Miles Bridges led Michigan State with 16 points and 11 rebounds and he got plenty of help from his fellow freshmen as Nick Ward added 14 points, Cassius Winston 12 and Joshua Langford 11. Between them, they made 19 of 31 shots from the field.
“It’s a good group of players and they play a lot so it’s not surprising that they’d all be in double figures,’’ Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said. “Every one of them is impressive, particularly Bridges in the first half.’’
Bridges scored 14 of his points before halftime, but the other three youngsters did almost all of their damage in the second half when the Spartans took control of the contest. A perimeter barrage that included back-to-back 3-pointers by Winston helped the Spartans gain the upper hand and Ward then scored eight of the next 11 points to give MSU a commanding lead.
“We did not handle that one stretch where they kind of separated from us,’’ McCaffery said. “They hadn’t been able to do it until that point, then all of sudden they were up 12 … At that point, I thought we needed a little more maturity in terms of shot selection.’’
Michigan State led by as much 14 (69-55) following a Langford three with just under six minutes to go. Iowa never got within nine points the rest of the way.
The Hawkeyes (14-12, 6-7 Big Ten) endured their worst shooting effort of the Big Ten schedule and their second worst of the season. They shot just 32.8 percent from the field and were 4 for 21 from 3-point range.
McCaffery said he thought it was a combination of lingering fatigue from a double-overtime loss Wednesday at Minnesota and good defense by Michigan State.
“I think it was a little bit of both,’’ he said. “They really got up into us and I thought they were connected. They made it hard. We did have some open looks from some really good shooters and they didn’t make them, which is unfortunate.’’
Peter Jok matched his career high with eight assists and also scored 13 points, but he made just 2 of 11 shots from the field, 0 for 5 from 3-point range.
"There were always two guys there when I caught the ball," Jok said. "They were really dialed in."
Freshman point guard Jordan Bohannon was 0 for 6 from long range, 0 for 8 overall, and failed to score for the first time in his college career. He registered his only assist of the game with about 3 ½ minutes to go.
“I haven’t seen him 0 for 8 ever,’’ McCaffery said. “It’s one those nights for him. I told him to keep shooting and he did.’’
Tyler Cook also scored 13 points for the Hawkeyes, including four dunks. Cordell Pemsl added 10 points and a team-high seven rebounds.
Michigan State (15-10, 7-5 Big Ten) was coming off an 86-57 loss to Michigan and head coach Tom Izzo said he was "thrilled'' by his team's resilience.
"It's hard to come off a rivalry game playing as poorly as we did and bounce back," he said.
The Spartans had a problem with turnovers all night, handing the ball over to the Hawkeyes 21 times, but they more than made up for it by outrebounding Iowa 46-32 and shooting 48.3 percent from the field, 55.2 in the second half.
“They kicked us on the glass pretty good,’’ McCaffery said. “You can’t come in here and get outrebounded 46 to 32. That’s going to make it really hard.’’