- Bad to good
EAST LANSING — Malik Hall returned at the start, and things seemed on the uptick for Michigan State basketball.
Tyson Walker left late, and things started to look bleak.
Both made significant plays to deliver the Spartans a back-and-forth, sometimes physical, sometimes sloppy, in-the-end thrilling 63-61 home win Thursday night against Iowa.
“We lost a couple we deserved to win. Tonight, I think we might have won one I’m not sure we deserved to win,” MSU coach Tom Izzo said. “As Jud (Heathcote) used to say, an ugly win is better than a pretty loss.”
Walker left the game with 3:48 to play after appearing to twist his right ankle on a fall and drive. The senior guard returned with 1:50 to play, hitting the go-ahead jumper 28 seconds later, dove for a steal on a disruption in the paint with 1:13 to play, then assisted on Jaden Akins’s baseline jumper with 47.1 to play.
After an Iowa layup by Connor McCaffery with 34.5 ticks left, MSU’s A.J. Hoggard went to the free throw line but missed a 1-and-1 free throw with 20.9 seconds left, and the Hawkeyes rebounded and called timeout with eight seconds left.
Iowa got two 3-pointers off, but each one bounced away before a third shot came after time expired.
“It was just another stepping stone,” said Walker, who finished with 10 points on 4-for-14 shooting and added five assists. “We showed it a little at Wisconsin, we showed it multiple times. We finished it at Wisconsin, and we did it again today. We just can’t dig ourself in a hole. That’s the whole thing.”
Hall played 25 minutes after missing three straight games with a left foot injury, scoring 11 points with four assists and three rebounds. The 6-foot-9 senior forward wasn’t sure he would even play against Iowa.
“I felt pretty solid. I feel pretty solid right now,” said Hall, who also missed eight games in November and December with an injury to the same foot. “Probably won’t feel it until the morning, honestly. I think adrenaline helps.”
Akins led the Spartans with 12 points, adding six rebounds and three of their season-high 10 steals. Mady Sissoko posted 10 points and 10 rebounds, and Joey Hauser had 11 points and six boards for the Spartans (14-7, 6-4 Big Ten), who hit the road Sunday for a rematch against No. 1 Purdue.
Tipoff is 12:15 p.m. at Mackey Arena in West Lafayette, Indiana (CBS). The Boilermakers beat MSU at Breslin on Jan. 16, 64-63.
The Spartans held Iowa’s leading scorer Kris Murray to 11 points on 5-for-13 shooting, and he added eight rebounds. Ahron Ulis’ 17 points on 8-for-10 shooting led the Hawkeyes (12-8, 4-5), while Filip Rebraca had 16 points and 11 rebounds.
Bad to good
It was the third brutal start in four games for MSU, this one perhaps its worst.
The Spartans came out and missed one shot after another. Midrange jumpers, 3-pointers, layups — it didn’t matter. Nine straight clanged off the rim.
Iowa took advantage by taking off in transition early and pounding the paint. When Murray flushed a dunk off a baseline inbounds pass out of the first media timeout, the Hawkeyes built a 10-0 lead just 4:09 into the game by draining five of their first seven attempts.
Everything flipped on the next MSU possession, and the midrange…
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