Offensive lull kills Iowa's attempt to knock off Michigan State


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Senior forward Zach McCabe knocked down a 3-pointer with 9:57 remaining in the second half of Tuesday’s loss to Michigan State. The crowd at Carver-Hawkeye Arena responded by creating an atmosphere that Spartan head coach Tom Izzo said reminded him of the Tom Davis-led Iowa teams of the late 1980s and ’90s.

But a cold streak unlike any other this team’s went through then followed.

McCabe’s shot put Iowa ahead 50-46, but it would be the last made field goal by the Hawkeyes before Devyn Marble’s lay-up with just six seconds left in overtime.

“We were driving the ball; we were throwing it inside and trying to get to the free-throw line,” Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery said following the loss. “I felt we were moving the ball well. We had some really good looks at it, we just didn’t make any.”

In total, Iowa missed its next 11 field-goal attempts.

McCaffery’s Hawkeyes were able to force overtime during its lull, an accomplishment in its own right. But despite a Hawkeye defensive effort that featured several forced shot-clock violations and, at times, made a very talented Michigan State team look confused offensively, the Black and Gold’s near-15 minute cold streak ended up costing them a crucial game in the Big Ten’s regular-season race.

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After averaging 85.3 points in its first 20 games of the 2013-14 season, Iowa managed just 69 points in regulation and overtime Tuesday night.

“I don’t think we responded well enough. We talked all week in practice how we needed to make hard cuts, set good, hard screens, and I think we got a little bit too stagnant,” sophomore guard Mike Gesell said. “We may have been trying to do a little too much one-on-one because it’s hard to drive on a team like that.

“I felt like we just weren’t moving enough on offense.”

Iowa is known for its up-tempo pace and array of capable offensive threats. But after managing just 6 fast break points and showing there’s much to be improved in regards to its half-court offense, whether the Hawkeyes will eventually prove they’re more than just a good, not great team is something people can now seriously ponder.

What may make Iowa’s loss hurt even more is that the Spartans were without two of its key contributors in Adreian Payne and Branden Dawson. There seemed to be no better time for Iowa to break out with a huge win at home than Tuesday night. But an unusual offensive lull led to another close loss, ruining the party to be in Iowa City.

“We just didn’t make the plays we needed to,” senior guard Devyn Marble said. “It motivates you. They’re a tough team, one of the best teams in the country and in our conference.

“Always, getting a win against them is going to be tough. But we tried to step up to the challenge; we’ve been coming up short. But we’ll get another chance in East Lansing and, who knows, maybe we’ll see them in the Big Ten Tournament.”

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