Turnovers, rebounding, three-point shooting fuel Iowa men’s basketball to historic comeback win against Michigan State

The Hawkeyes scored 23 points in the final 1:30 of regulation to force overtime and eventually defeat the Spartans, 112-106, at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Saturday afternoon.


Matt Sindt

Iowa guard Tony Perkins celebrates with Iowa guard Connor McCaffery during a men’s basketball game between Iowa and Michigan State at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City on Saturday, Feb. 25, 2023. The Hawkeyes defeated the Spartans, 112-106.

Jake Olson, Sports Reporter

After a made free throw from Michigan State’s Malik Hall, the Iowa basketball team found itself down, 91-78, with 1:34 remaining at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Saturday afternoon.

Up until that point in the contest the Spartans had handled the Hawkeyes. 

A 63 percent second-half shooting performance from the field, including a perfect 5-for-5 mark from the three-point line, led Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo’s crew to a comfortable lead. 

But after a quick transition three by Iowa’s Payton Sandfort, cutting the lead to 10 with 1:30 remaining, Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery called a timeout. 

While looking at a depleted Carver crowd — as fans had begun to head for the exits — Sandfort still believed in his team. He told the rest of the Iowa players they still had a shot.

“There was so many plays with a minute left where we would get an offensive rebound and a putback, if they got one of those rebounds the game was over, Sandfort said. “We had to do everything and execute perfectly. We had to just keep fighting and believe.”

What followed that timeout is now the second-largest last-minute comeback in NCAA men’s basketball history.

Down, 95-84, the Hawkeyes closed the final 55 seconds of regulation on a 17-6 run to send it to overtime. 

“I’ve coached a lot of games and been in this situation before, and I get a sense of, ‘Are they still fighting or is it me trying to convince them to keep fighting?’” McCaffrey said of his team. “I didn’t have to convince them. They were never out of it. In their minds, they were never out of it.”

After controlling the game for most of the second stanza, Michigan State fell apart in the last minutes. 

What Izzo called “Piss-poor coaching” coupled with Michigan State turnovers, Iowa offensive rebounding, and Hawkeye sharpshooting from distance fueled the late comeback for the home team. The Spartans gave up four offensive rebounds in the last two minutes which led to nine second-chance points. 

“What they did more than anything was get a bunch of rebounds,” Izzo said. “We outrebounded them in the first half but got our butts kicked in the second half. When we can’t even go to the free-throw line and get [a rebound], it’s just not enough time spent on [rebounding]. That solely falls on me.”

In its two previous games against Northwestern and Wisconsin, Iowa had gone 6-for-52 from outside the arc. Iowa made six 3-pointers in the last two minutes alone Saturday, going 6-for-9 from the perimeter over that span.

“We know we have good shooters in our locker room,” Iowa forward Kris Murray said. “We have been shooting it well in practice and drills. It has just been a focus of ours to keep everyone’s heads right.”

Overtime began with a  jump ball won by Murray – which led to a pair of free throws for the Cedar Rapids product after a foul on Michigan State’s Jaden Akins. 

Murray’s jump ball win was something that McCaffery thought was a big moment for his team.

“I challenged Kris to get the tip in overtime,” McCaffery said. “Boy, he went up and just controlled it … That was huge.”

Murray recalled the situation with a smile. 

“He was yelling in my ear to get the tip because I haven’t gotten one in probably like a month,” Murray said of McCaffery. “So I knew I had to time it really well, give it my best jump. It’s probably the highest I’ve jumped in a while. I had to get that one for sure. I think it gave us a lot of momentum too.”

In the extra session, the Iowa defense ratcheted up the pressure and held Michigan State to only one field goal in the five-minute span. After the Spartans shot 63 percent in regulation, the Hawkeyes held the visitors to just 20 percent from the field in overtime. 

“We wanted it more,” Iowa guard Tony Perkins said. “When overtime came we knew we had to stop them defensively. They were shooting good, but we had to leave them to one shot. That’s what we tried to do and that’s what came out of it.”