Michigan St.-Iowa Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated January 10, 2013
Tom Izzo wasn't satisfied with Michigan State's performance in its last game despite a lopsided victory. Iowa was on the wrong end of a one-sided score its last time out. Izzo hopes for a better effort from his 22nd-ranked Spartans on Thursday night when they visit a Hawkeyes team that is trying to avoid its third loss to a ranked team in as many games. After falling to No. 8 Minnesota in its Big Ten opener, Michigan State (12-3, 1-1) defeated Purdue 84-61 on Saturday, but Izzo said his team didn't play as well as the score indicated. "Even though I'm excited about the win, I think we beat a good team, but we're still not playing like we need to play if we're going to make any type of noise in this conference," said Izzo, whose teams have claimed three of the last four regular-season league titles. Specifically, the veteran coach would like to see center Derrick Nix be more efficient around the basket and guard Denzel Valentine cut down on his turnovers. Nix was 3 of 8 from the field against the Boilermakers and is 8 of 23 (34.8 percent) in Big Ten games. Valentine had four turnovers Saturday, the fourth time in six games he had at least three. Keith Appling leads the team in scoring at 14.3 points per game but was limited to six on 2-of-6 shooting versus Purdue. The Spartans instead leaned more heavily on freshman Gary Harris (13.1 ppg), who scored a season-high 22. "He tries to understand what he has to do within the offense, and I think he'll find his niche," Izzo said of Harris. "But definitely, when you go 6 of 8 from three, that makes a big difference in our team." Harris' six 3-pointers were also a season high and an encouraging sign for Michigan State after he went 3 of 19 (15.8 percent) from long range over his previous four games. He's hitting 36.7 percent of his 3-point shots on the season. "I knew coach had my back," Harris said. "He knew I was in a slump but he just said keep shooting because I had to shoot my way out of it, and I was able to do that." Michigan State had no trouble shooting in its two games against the Hawkeyes last season, connecting on 60.0 percent of their shots in a pair of lopsided wins. The Spartans have won four straight and nine of 10 in the series but lost 72-52 in their last visit to Iowa City on Feb. 2, 2011. Iowa (11-4, 0-2) concluded its non-conference schedule with six straight wins before dropping games against No. 5 Indiana and No. 2 Michigan. The Hawkeyes only fell to the Hoosiers by four, but were rolled by the Wolverines 95-67 on Sunday. Michigan shot an opponent season-high 58.1 percent and outrebounded Iowa 41-26, and coach Fran McCaffery is seeking more toughness. "Once you get into this league, I don't know that it matters (who you play)," McCaffery said. "I mean the next game, no matter who it is, is going to be a really good team. Anything short of our best, we're not going to win. We're not good enough to beat anybody in this league with anything less." Rebounding margin has been a strong determinant of the Hawkeyes' success, or lack thereof. They own a plus-10.7 rebounding advantage in their wins, compared to a minus-9.0 margin in their losses. Michigan State ranks fourth in the Big Ten with a plus-9.0 rebounding differential. Roy Devyn Marble, who leads Iowa in scoring at 15.5 per game, rebounded with 14 points on 4-of-9 shooting against Michigan after misfiring on 13 of 14 shots versus Indiana. The junior averaged 12.5 points on 36.0 percent shooting against the Spartans last season.
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