No. 10 Michigan State faces test from No. 18 Iowa
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Michigan State survived a scare in its Big Ten basketball opener. The No. 10 Spartans face an even bigger challenge when No. 18 Iowa visits the Breslin Center on Monday.
Point guard Cassius Winston led the Spartans to a 78-67 road win over unheralded Rutgers on Friday. Winston had 22 points, six assists and no turnovers in 35 minutes as Michigan State grinded out the victory. The Spartans were up by two points at halftime and only six with just over five minutes remaining.
"I thought they blitzed us early a little bit. But I thought we shot pretty well," coach Tom Izzo said. "We went into the game, as everybody follows us, we averaged 100 turnovers a game in the last four games, and that was a key. We only had two at halftime and seven for the game. That was one big goal."
Izzo was also relatively pleased with his team's defense and rebounding.
"We wanted to defend without fouling, they got to the free throw line 16 times," he said. "We had 16 fouls. We've been averaging 23. ... We felt like we had to out-rebound them even though they were big, and we did that. We accomplished what we wanted to accomplish. It wasn't pretty because they can play and they are good."
Following their game against the Hawkeyes, the Spartans (6-2) return to the non-conference portion of their schedule until January. Izzo would prefer more continuity in the schedule.
"I'm still questioning these Big Ten games this early, personally," he said. "Nothing bad, it just makes it so hard to fit games into your schedule. This is brutal for our guys."
Spartans big man Nick Ward, who scored 20 against the Scarlet Knights, has been tough on Iowa the past two seasons. He scored 17 points in a 96-93 victory at Iowa last season. In his freshman season two years ago, Ward tallied 14 points in a 77-66 Michigan State win at East Lansing.
Iowa (6-1) suffered its first loss in its Big Ten opener, falling to Wisconsin at home 72-66 on Friday.
The Hawkeyes led by a point with two minutes left but the Badgers outscored them 12-5 down the stretch. Coach Fran McCaffery viewed the loss as a teaching tool.
"We talked about it after the game -- the good, the bad, challenged some guys," he said. "Overall, I was impressed with our fight. It wasn't a thing of beauty. We didn't make some plays coming down the stretch we would like to have made, and they did. That's why they won."
Iowa shot 39 percent from the field and made 12 turnovers, compared to nine assists.
"I didn't like the fact that we quick shot it early," McCaffery said. "I wanted to move it a little more, get the defense moving."
Junior forward Tyler Cook led the way with 19 points and 15 rebounds. He's averaging 15.4 points and 8.1 rebounds.
"It always hurts when you have a chance to win down the stretch. A couple of things we did or didn't do, decided the game," he said. "It's frustrating but encouraging at the same time. We're right there against another great, ranked team. We just have to figure out how to seal the deal."
Updated December 3, 2018