Written by Josh Price
While the Spartans started the season with a shaky 0-2 start to the Big Ten season, there was no doubt who the better team was on Saturday when they beat Iowa 85-55.
One of the off-the-court highlights was the honoring of former Michigan State and NBA basketball player Steve Smith for his accomplishments. Smith was head Coach Tom Izzoâ€™s first recruit. On a day when the theme in the Breslin Center was retro dress, the Spartans played a game that would make any former player proud.
â€œI donâ€™t think thereâ€™s any question that was our best performance of the year, against a very good team,â€ said Izzo after the game.
There was no question that the five days off in between games helped the Spartans against the Hawkeyes. The team looked fresh and got off to a quick 11-6 lead. The team went frequently to senior center Paul Davis in the post. This started a trend of inside to outside play that lasted the rest of the afternoon. This helped senior forward Maurice Ager who finished with a game high 25 points. Davis also added 19 points and 12 rebounds.
Michigan State exploited every weakness of the Iowa defense throughout the game. At the 13:24 mark of the first half, red-shirt freshman forward Marquise Gray caught a pass on a back-screen for a wide-open dunk. Later on, he also drove baseline for a dunk over two Iowa defenders. While Gray only had four points, five rebounds and two blocks, he offered the energetic plays that the team had been missing.
Sophomore guard Drew Neitzel also had a very strong performance. Coach Izzo talked about how it was important to get the young point guard into double digits. Neitzel did just that and Iowa head coach Steve Alford said that it was his ability to get past Iowaâ€™s guards that allowed Michigan Stateâ€™s big three players to get going. Neitzel finished the game with 11 points and six assists.
What was evident during Saturdayâ€™s game was that the Spartans were playing a much different game on an emotional level. The team chemistry was on a higher level than in past games. They made better decisions, were confident, played with an extra hop in their step and most of all, they were having fun.
With 3:30 left in the second half, junior guard Shannon Brown made two plays that were quintessential examples of the Spartans game. His circus shots, both while being fouled, electrified the crowd and were the icing on the cake for Michigan State.
â€œThis was close to a perfect game,â€ added Izzo after the game.
The final numbers for the game back up Izzoâ€™s statement. The team accumulated 30 made shots and 26 assists, which created the easy victory. The 30-point deficit was also the worst loss for the Hawkeyes ever against the Spartans.