EAST LANSING, Mich. — The Iowa basketball team has had some nightmarish moments in that house of horrors known as the Breslin Center.
After all, the Hawkeyes have won there only once there in the past quarter century.
But Monday may have been the topper.
Not only did the Hawkeyes go through an agonizing scoring drought at the outset of the second half, during which they were very nearly run out of the arena, but they may have lost one of their best players for at least a game or so in a not-as-close-as-it-looks 90-68 loss to 10th-ranked Michigan State.
Joe Wieskamp went down with what appeared to be a badly sprained right ankle with 11 minutes, 49 seconds remaining in the game and Iowa coach Fran McCaffery admitted it was iffy as to whether or not the freshman from Muscatine will play Thursday against instate rival Iowa State.
Wieskamp went down in a heap after stepping on the foot of teammate Tyler Cook underneath the Michigan State basket and was helped to the locker room, barely able to put any weight on that leg.
But the game was already pretty much a disaster by that time as the Hawkeyes trailed 58-36 and were in the midst of a stretch of 15 consecutive missed shots.
Michigan State’s lead eventually peaked at 74-43 before Cook led a late charge to make the score more respectable.
The Spartans (7-2, 2-0 Big Ten) thoroughly dominated inside as center Nick Ward scored 26 points on 10-for-10 shooting and also grabbed eight rebounds. Power forward Kenny Goins collected 19 points, 14 rebounds and seven assists, and reserve forward Xavier Tillman added 14 points and eight rebounds.
Add in 14 points for Joshua Langford and 12 assists for Cassius Winston and you have the makings of a total rout.
“We kind of let them have too many looks on the inside,’’ said Cook, who scored 10 of his team-high 15 points in the final minutes, long after the outcome was decided. “It was pretty plain to see we need to do a better job of containing them on the inside regardless of who is guarding them.’’
Goins, a fifth-year senior who has always been a role player in the past, also was exceptionally tough at the defensive end, doing much of the dirty work in holding down Cook.
“They all are (tough),’’ Cook said. “That’s what they live by. They always are going to try to be the tougher team, the more physical team.’’
Iowa (6-2, 0-2 Big Ten) actually looked good early, leading by as much as six points, and it still was holding its own on the short end of a 26-25 score with 6½ minutes to go in the half. Then the Spartans strung together seven straight points and forged a 43-33 halftime lead.
It got a lot worse after that. Asked what went wrong for his team at the outset of the second half, McCaffery said: “Pretty much everything.
“We didn’t have the kind of possessions we wanted,’’ he added. “We tried to run some sets and we had some turnovers. Live-ball turnovers against this team are deadly. Everybody knows that.’’
The Spartans scored the first nine points of the second half and after a Jordan Bohannon 3-pointer, the Hawkeyes missed 15 in a row, allowing Michigan State to score 14 more points in succession.
“Just a physical night, a physical conference game in the Big Ten,’’ said Bohannon, who scored 11 points but spent much of the second half on the bench.
“I don’t think we were ready to fight back when they hit their run in the middle of the first half and we weren’t ready to fight back at the start of the second half,’’ he added.
The Hawkeyes don’t have much time to lick their wounds. Iowa State comes to Iowa City on Thursday night.
“We still have to stay together …’’ Bohannon said. “We’ve got another big game coming up Thursday. I still think we have a really good team. We just have to stay positive.’’
Cook said he knew not everything was going to go perfectly this season. He described Monday’s game as “a hiccup.
“We’re still ahead of the curve,’’ he said. “It doesn’t change the way I think about this team or the season.
“We lost,’’ he added. “(Stuff) happens. We’ll move on.’’