Big Ten tournament: Michigan State squeaks past Iowa
Michigan State could not afford to lose Thursday and remain in contention for an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament. The bubble is weak, but it's not that weak.
The Spartans won, but in what has become their typical fashion this season, they did so unconvincingly. Michigan State prevailed over Iowa, 66-61, and advanced to play Purdue on Friday in the Big Ten tournament quarterfinals.
With the victory, the Spartans' NCAA tournament hopes were bolstered. A win tomorrow over the Boilermakers would definitely secure Michigan State's spot in the Field of 68.
"Well, it wasn't a pretty game," Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said. "There's no question about that. Last year we played New Mexico State in the first game (of the NCAA tournament), and it's about survive and advance. That's kind of the way it is. I thought at times we did some good things and at times we did some really not so good things."
Izzo was referring to Michigan State's 70-67 win over New Mexico State, a No. 12 seed, in the first round of last season's NCAA tournament.
On Thursday, the Spartans at various times seemed disorganized. They never led by more than seven, and they trailed by seven with just less than 12 minutes to play in the second half.
But Durrell Summers came up big for Michigan State in the closing minutes. He finished with just nine points, but he made four crucial free throws to seal the win in the final 15 seconds of the game. He also made a steal and grabbed a key defensive rebound in the last 25 seconds of play.
Michigan State forward Draymond Green finished with a game-high 21 points and 14 rebounds.
Kalin Lucas, Michigan State's point guard, sprained his ankle, and Izzo was unsure afterward how healthy Lucas would be for Friday's game against Purdue. But at least on the surface, Izzo did not seem concerned about his team's overall health.
"Well I don't think it would be very good if we were healthy," Izzo said. "We're were a little too healthy today. So we're back to digging and scratching; maybe that's the way the whole year's been."
The last time Michigan State and Purdue met, the Boilermakers won by 20 on the Spartans' home court. That loss, Green said, was embarrassing on many different levels. Purdue also claimed a 10-point win Jan. 22 over Michigan State in West Lafayette.
Michigan State now stands at 18-13, a team with a decent but certainly not outstanding resume that can play with the sort of grind-it-out toughness Izzo loves one minute and with no chemistry whatsoever the next.
Which version of the Spartans will show up Friday? Who knows? Izzo says his team is taking baby steps right now, but that doesn't mean he's not confident it can continue to survive and advance.
"I think they were a little relieved," Izzo said of his players Thursday night. "It looked like we did after New Mexico State. There's been pressure on this team. I know there's been pressure, but this one was about as good as it's been in the last couple years. I think they're going to be excited when we get back (to the team hotel) because we had some key guys step up, especially Durrell. That's going to be big."
| March 10, 2011; 8:06 PM ET
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