A tired Michigan State team didn't have enough to overcome #20 Iowa (24-8) in the Big Ten semi-finals losing by a score of 53-48.
One thing that was consistent in this game on both ends of the floor was the clanking sound of the rim at Conseco Fieldhouse.
Iowa and Michigan State (22-11) found it very difficult to put the ball in the basket on Saturday, Michigan State was a season-low 28 percent from the field while Iowa only managed to shoot 37 percent.
After the game Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo told the press, "I was very disappointed in our execution and some of our guard play," Izzo said. Maybe we were a little fatigued. We were short on a lot of shots.
Almost half of Michigan State's points came from senior guard Maurice Ager. Ager scored 21 points to lead all scorers.
The Spartans got out to an early 15-4 lead within the opening minutes of the first half, Maurice Ager knocked down two three-pointers to fuel the Spartans to an early lead.
After that run the feisty Hawkeye defense didn't allow a single field goal by the Spartans for just over eight minutes.
However, Iowa didn't score their first field goal of the game until over five minutes had already ticked off of the clock. The two scoring droughts by both of the teams left them deadlocked at a 15-15 tie.
After three-point field goals by Shannon Brown (eight points) and Maurice Ager the Spartans jumped into the lead at the intermission by a score of 25-22.
Michigan State turned the ball over 18 times and that didn't make Izzo very happy.
"The turnovers were made at ridiculous times," said Izzo. "It was an ugly game." In the second half it was all about hitting the iron for the Spartans.
Every shot Michigan State took seemed to be clanking on the front of the rim. It was obvious that fatigue was setting in on Michigan State.
The key to the second half was the Hawkeye's defense in the paint against Paul Davis. Davis had 13 points and 10 rebounds in the game but had to work for every bit of it.
Hawkeye defenders Erik Hansen, Greg Brunner and Doug Thomas all played a role in containing Davis.
After the game Iowa's senior forward Greg Brunner said, "We stuck it out. We knew they would come out jacked up and ready to play. That's their style."
Down the stretch Iowa made 9-10 free throws with under two minutes to play. Maurice Ager was the only Spartan to score in the final eight minutes of the game. Ager hit two of his five three-pointers in the last minute of the contest to keep the Spartans alive.
Iowa had three players reach double digits in the game. Point guard Jeff Horner led the way with 14 points. Greg Brunner added 12 points and Mike Henderson had 11.
Iowa's backcourt (Horner, Henderson and Adam Haluska) shot a near perfect 16-17 from the free-throw strike that played a pivotal role in the Hawkeye's victory.
Iowa will take on #7 Ohio State for the Big Ten Championship.