Iowa men’s basketball falls to Michigan State on the road

The Hawkeyes dropped to sub-.500 in conference play after a 63-61 loss to the Spartans on Thursday evening.


Daniel McGregor-Huyer

Iowa guard Ahron Ulis dribbles the ball during a basketball game Iowa and Iowa State at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City on Dec. 8, 2022. The Hawkeyes defeated the Cyclones, 75-56. Ulis scored eight points and collected seven rebounds.

Grant Hall, Sports Reporter

Iowa men’s basketball fell, 63-61, to Michigan State on Thursday evening in East Lansing. The Hawkeyes had an opportunity to come away with a win on the last possession but fell in the final seconds. 

Iowa jumped out to an early 10-0 lead in the first half, but the Tom Izzo-led Spartans battled back.

Michigan State carried a one-point lead into the halftime break, and despite a flurry of lead changes in the second half, Iowa could not pull out a victory at the Breslin Center.

After Iowa forward Connor McCaffery called a timeout with eight seconds remaining and the Spartans ahead by two, Hawkeye sophomore Payton Sandfort missed a pair of potentially game-winning triples on the final possession. Sandfort missed a wide open wing three, then came up short on a contested corner shot for the win.

Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery told reporters his team was not intent on playing for the win in the game’s final seconds, but he was okay with the shots Sandfort took.

“We had an opportunity with a good look at a three, and a second good look at a three, so we’re going to take it,” Fran McCaffery said.

RELATED: Iowa men’s basketball sophomore Payton Sandfort heating up after early-season shooting struggles

Iowa big man Filip Rebraca led the charge offensively for the Hawkeyes. Rebraca poured in 16 points and pulled down 10 boards en route to his eighth double-double of the season.

Rebraca has recorded a double-double in five of the Hawkeyes’ last eight contests.

Hawkeyes back under .500 in conference play

After their loss in East Lansing, the Hawkeyes have dipped to 4-5 in Big Ten play this season. 

Iowa started off the conference schedule with a three-game skid, won four straight, then dropped a 93-77 loss at Ohio State in Columbus on Jan. 21. Thursday night’s loss moves Iowa to 12-8 overall on the year.

Iowa shows shooting struggles

Iowa knocked down 6-of-13 free throws and 3-of-17 3-pointers against the Spartans. Thursday’s effort was the Hawkeyes’ lowest season output from three, tied with their performances against Duke and TCU earlier in the season.

“We got some good shots we didn’t make, but we also missed free throws,” Fran McCaffery said. “You’ve got to make your free throws.”

Ulis’ performance a mixed bag

Junior guard Ahron Ulis had a conflicting performance against the Spartans. The 6-foot-3 guard scored a career-high 17 points in the loss on 8-for-10 shooting. He dished out three assists and lost six turnovers.

However, the Chicago native missed the front end of one-and-one with under two minutes left, with the score knotted at 59 apiece, then he was tied up for a jump ball on the Hawkeyes’ next trip down the court. The Spartans capitalized after both mistakes, scoring a bucket on each possession.

After the game, Fran McCaffery told reporters that Ulis’ free throw miss was an outlier.

“Ulis is usually money from the line,” Fran McCaffery said.

Up next

The Hawkeyes return to Iowa City on Jan. 29, as they play host to Rutgers at Carver-Hawkeye Arena at 1 p.m. The Scarlet Knights are currently 14-6 on the year and stand 6-3 in the Big Ten.