Iowa City, IA (SportsNetwork.com) - A marquee Big Ten Conference matchup is on tap for Tuesday night at Carver-Hawkeye Arena, as the 15th-ranked Iowa Hawkeyes play host to the seventh-ranked Michigan State Spartans.
Michigan State had been riding high going into its most recent matchup with 11 straight victories, but it fell on the wrong end of a 80-75 decision on Saturday night against intrastate rival Michigan. The setback caused the Spartans to dip slightly in the latest poll from No. 3 to No. 7, but they are still an outstanding 18-2 overall and, at 7-1 in the Big Ten, a half-game behind Michigan for first place.
Iowa is also in the midst of an outstanding season, winning 16 of its 20 games overall, while running out a 5-2 start in league play. The Hawkeyes claimed an easy 76-50 road victory over Northwestern on Saturday and now return home to Carver-Hawkeye Arena, where they have yet to lose in 11 tries this season and have won 20 straight dating back to last January.
The Spartans have beaten the Hawkeyes on six straight occasions and in 11 of the past 12 to improve their record in the all-time series to 68-53.
The Spartans held a lead as large as eight in the second half of their latest bout, but Michigan persevered and used an 8-0 run later in the frame to effectively seal the deal. Michigan State actually outshot the Wolverines from the field, 46.4 percent to 44.9 percent, but it lost the rebounding battle, 35-29, and was outscored from the free-throw line, 25-16. Gary Harris was outstanding despite the defeat, netting 27 points on 9-of-16 from the field, including 4-of-6 from 3-point range. Alvin Ellis III scored 12 points in just 11 minutes off the bench, Keith Appling tallied a double-double with 10 points and 10 assists and Matt Costello just missed one with nine points and eight rebounds.
Michigan State has established itself as one of the nation's most well-rounded squads this season, shooting 47.7 percent from the field for 79.7 ppg while allowing just 64.7 ppg on 38.2 percent shooting, good for the ninth-best scoring margin in the country (+14.9). Harris has shined at guard with 18.8 ppg, shooting 42-of-120 from 3-point range (.350) and 72-of-89 from the foul line (.809) while adding more than two steals per contest. Appling (15.4 ppg, 4.9 apg) has been strong alongside Harris in the backcourt, although MSU's frontcourt has been devastated by injury. Adreian Payne (16.2 ppg, 7.7 rpg) has missed the past five games with a foot injury, while Branden Dawson (10.2 ppg, 8.7 rpg) will miss about a month with a broken hand.
The Hawkeyes had no issues dismissing Northwestern over the weekend, as they shot a lofty 51.9 percent from the field, held the Wildcats to only 36.4 percent shooting and dominated the rebounding battle, 44-20, en route to the 26-point victory. Roy Devyn Marble and Gabriel Olaseni each scored 14 points to pace the effort, with Olaseni making his performance a double-double with 10 rebounds. Mike Gesell put up 11 points and six assists, and in total, eight players scored multiple field goals in the win.
Iowa is one of the few teams to have a better offense than Michigan State this season, as it ranks fifth in the nation in posting 85.2 ppg on great percentages from the field (.478), 3-point range (.377) and the free-throw (.725). Its outstanding shooting attack has not hindered its defensive play either, as it allows only 66.2 ppg on 37.6 percent shooting, while also boasting excellent margins in the rebounding (+10.0) and turnover (+1.8) battles. Marble scores a team-best 16.1 ppg and has a strong assist (63) to turnover (35) ratio, and Aaron White (13.7 ppg, 6.5 rpg) ranks in the top-20 nationally in field-goal percentage (.633). No one else scores in double figures on a nightly basis, but the deep team has nine players who score at least 5.6 ppg.