MSU watched again as Maurice Ager turned in his second consecutive sub par outing, notching just nine points on 3-of-11 shooting while committing five turnovers.
The turnovers were a huge part of MSU's problem. After jumping out to an eight point lead early, the Spartans committed a string of turnovers. They finished the game with 17, including six by center Paul Davis.
MSU turned into the gang that couldn't shoot straight. At one key stretch early in the first half, the Spartans missed 9-of-11 shots which helped Iowa turn a five point deficit into a four point lead.
"I'm disappointed that we can't seem to find the basket," said Spartans head coach Tom Izzo. "That affects other parts of the game, too. Now we need to regroup."
Foul trouble contributed to MSU woes as well.
Gray was extremely active, contributing two rebounds and playing strong defensively, but his poor free throw shooting puts the Spartans in a bind.
Gray was just 1-of-4 from the line in seven minutes. Izzo attempted to go with Delco Rowley, who got ten minutes in relief of Trannon and Gray. Rowley missed his only free throw attempt.
Izzo talked openly about MSU needing to regroup and they'll have an opportunity to do so with back-to-back home games against a reeling Michigan squad and Ohio State before venturing back on the road to take on Mike Davis' Indiana team in Bloomington. The Spartans close the Big Ten season with back-to-back contests against Bo Ryan's Wisconsin squad and then finish with Illinois.
MSU has to gain some mental toughness in the next few weeks to try to set up a run in the Big Ten Tournament in Indianapolis March 9-12. The Spartans seem to wilt under the pressure of playing in an opponents gym and seem to need to solve the problem between their ears more than anything else.
For seniors Davis and Ager, the stakes are even higher. Unless they can right the ship and toughen up mentally, they won't leave the kind of mark that great Spartans team of the past, and even last year's group led by Chris Hill and Kelvin Torbert did when they made their improbable run to the Final Four.
For Ager personally, his stake as a potential first round draft pick falls with every sub par game his compiles. He needs to turn it around in a hurry and what could be better timing than to do it facing Michigan and Ohio State?