Iowa City, Iowa

January 4, 2007

Arriving in Iowa City the weather mirrored the warm temperatures that we had back in Michigan.  Much to my surprise however was that the Hawkeye fans had no warmth for Steve Alford the coach.  Many people (including two University employees) openly talked about their disdain for the former Bobby Knight pupil.  Even more visible however was the thousands of empty seats in the cavernous Carve-Hawkeye arena and the smattering of Boos that could be heard when he was introduced because no one was cheering.

Would the return of MOJO (albeit in limited minutes) inspire the Spartans?  It didn’t look like it but the gutsy Spartans toughed it out.  The perennial “thorn in the flesh” for the Spartans Adam Haluska jumped out with five quick points giving the Hawks a five-point lead.

MOJO made his entrance into the game with 13+ minutes in the first half and wasted now time showing everyone at least he felt O.K.  He quickly ran the sets and let one Hawkeye know with a quick jab that he was in the house to play ball.  He missed his first shots but hustled and played the best defense of everyone while on the court. 

The Spartans suffered from an inability to hold on to the ball and found themselves down six with fewer than 12 minutes to go.  That inability is so critical on the road especially during Big Ten and poor shooting was not the way to start out right. 

Haluska again proved his penchant to be a pain in the butt for the Spartans.  When the Spartans again played nice houseguest with a critical turnover by Sutton, Haluska broke away for a critical dunk.  That put the Hawks up 12 with 8:53 to go.

 With 7:34 Marquise and Sutton battled under the boards old school and when the ball hit the floor he was after it.  As soon as he grabbed the ball the Hawkeye player had it also and he started yelling to the ref (knowing MSU had the arrow) jump ball.  A bright basketball move that also could be used as a motivator for a team that up to that point had lacked some aggressiveness.  Aggression however was not the by-product, it was sloppy unIzzo like basketball the plagued them.

For MSU to do anything this Big Ten season they have to step up.  They don’t have the depth or the talent at this point to play this bad and win. I say Mateen play some bad games and Bell heck, go ahead and name your Spartan legend.  Then however is not today and the Spartans need the sum of their parts and anyone not firing in all cylinders kills them.

MOJO got his first bucket with 2:25 left in the first and it looked like the Spartans were poised to make a run.  Great defense forced a clock violation when the Hawks came down the court after the MOJO bucket.  The Spartans again forced a turnover when the Hawks came back down after a Spartan miss.  Naymick went strong to the hoop and got the shot and the foul.  He converted the free throw and the Spartans moved to within six with 57 seconds left.

With 19 seconds left MOJO hit a big three and the Spartans were able to hold the Hawks off with their final possession.  That made the score 32-28 when the half came to an end.  MOJO, Marquise and Naymick led the Spartans with 5 apiece.

The first ten minutes of the second half were difficult to watch as neither team played well and the Hawks moved ahead. However a three pointer followed by another bucket on the next possession by Neitzel got the Spartans to within six again at 48-42. 

The Hawks quickly got a ten point lead back when the Spartans got sloppy and the finally woke up a dismal and less then impressive Hawkeye crowd.

Even though Haluska had a solid game, the real Achilles heal was Tyler Smith the freshman from Tennessee.  With Raymar Morgan still out, the Spartans struggled defending this future star.  Izzo went farther saying, “He annihilated us.”  OUCH!

The most interesting event of the evening however was Neitzel getting heckled by the student section with chants of Marshall Mathers.  Comparing him with his short haircut and small stature to the rapper EMINEN (real name Marshall Mathers) that his looks currently favor.  He silenced them however hitting a free throw and bringing the Spartans to within five.

After a break, the Spartans had the ball with 4:05 and if they were going to make a move it was now down five.  They quickly went to their Commander in Chief Drew Neitzel who made a nice move and got the foul.  Sending him to the charity stripe to pick up one quick point while erasing no time could have been a great benefit but Haluska came down and hit a big three pointer raising the lead back to seven.  Neitzel again responded driving back to the lane and getting both free throws, both team leaders willing their teams to victory.  Haluska came down and answered Neitzel with two free throws of his own taking the lead back to seven. 

The Spartans however couldn’t close and got as close as two but ended up losing.  Giving Iowa’s Steve Alford his 300th career win.  Sadly this was a game MSU should have won and could have won.  In the Big Ten this simply isn’t acceptable, a point Izzo made very clear.

Well we pack or bags for Bloomington still asking how we could have had a 37-26 rebounding edge and lost this game.  Things that make you say HMMMMM.