By Pat Harty
IOWA CITY, Iowa – Sophomore point guard Jordan Bohannon was healthy enough to play against Michigan State on Tuesday, and his team was almost good enough to pull off an upset.
The fourth-ranked Spartans didn't take Iowa to the woodshed as many expected, but did just enough to escape from Carver-Hawkeye Arena with a 96-93 victory.
Michigan State sophomore forward Miles Bridges made two fee throws to put the Spartans ahead 92-91 with 1 minute, 2 seconds left to play.
Iowa then bogged down on offense on its next possession, forcing Iowa coach Fran McCaffery to call a timeout. The timeout had little effect, though, as the possession ended with sophomore shooting guard Isaiah Moss taking a desperation shot that fell way short of the basket.
Bridges made two more free throws with 31 seconds left, and Josh Langford hit two more with 6.3 seconds left to expand the lead to 96-93.
Bridges then stole the inbound pass and drew a foul, but missed both free throws, giving Iowa a chance to tie and force overtime.
Junior forward Nicholas Baer attempted a shot from near halfcourt that bounced off the rim, ending the upset bid.
Iowa only committed two turnovers in the second half, but they both came in the final 30 seconds.
Good teams find a way to win close games, while teams that struggle find ways to lose them. Iowa's lack of execution on offense in the closing seconds was an example of that, as was Michigan State making six consecutive free throws in the final 1:02 of the game.
Iowa had five players who scored in double figures, led by sophomore forward Tyler Cook with 26 points. Bohannon scored 17 points and made five 3-point baskets.
Sophomore guard Maishe Dailey also came off the bench to score 13 points, while Moss and sophomore forward Cordell Pemsl finished with 11 points apiece.
Iowa fell to 3-10 in the Big Ten and 12-14 overall, while Michigan State improved to 11-2 and 23-3.
The game had plenty of action and momentum shifts, but little defense as Michigan State coach Tom Izzo pointed out afterwards to the media.
"I don't think either team played any defense, to be honest with you," Izzo said.
Iowa was leading 83-76 when Michigan State freshman forward Jaren Jackson scored five consecutive points.
Pemsl then scored for Iowa on a tip and the Spartans answered with two free throws to keep the deficit at two points.
Bohannon made his fifth 3-pointer in the game to give Iowa an 88-83 lead
Whether Bohannon would play on Tuesday was a game-time decision after he had battled an illness the past few days. He didn't practice on Monday and the rest seems to have paid dividends as Bohannon played well in Tuesday's game.
Michigan State was leading 55-46 when Iowa answered with a 7-0 scoring run.
The Spartans made one free throw, but Iowa responded with a basket by freshman center Luka Garza, cutting the lead to 56-55.
Cook made a jumper and then followed with a rim-rattling dunk just seconds later that evened the score at 60 with slightly less than 15 minutes remaining.
Moss then made one of two free throws to give Iowa its first lead of the game at 61-60 with 14:16 remaining. Moss also had a nifty assist to Cook on a bounce pass in which Cook converted into a dunk. Cook also was fouled on the play, but missed the free throw.
Bohannon brought the fans to their feet by making a 3-point basket that expanded Iowa's lead to 68-64 and forced Izzo to call a timeout with 12:17 left to play.
By then it was clear that Iowa truly was flirting with an upset.
Moss was playing well for a change and Cook was having his way inside on offense, while the Spartans were struggling to get stops.
Dailey made a 3-point basket that gave Iowa a 76-71 lead and Baer followed with a layup in transition, forcing Izzo to call a timeout with 8:45 remaining and his team trailing 78-71.
Michigan State made a basket, but Dailey anwered with another trey to give Iowa an 81-73 lead.
Michigan State was leading 20-11 when Dailey made a 3-point basket with about 13 minutes left in the first half. Cook then made a basket to narrow the gap to 22-18, and it was clear by then that Iowa had survived Michigan State's early punch.
Cook also made a traditional 3-point play that trimmed the lead to 24-21 with 10:11 remaining in the first half.
Bohannon evened the score at 26 with a 3-point basket with 8:23 remaining. But the Spartans answered with a three from Bridges on their next possession. Bridges made another basket on a jumper in the lane that expanded the lead to 31-26 with 7:23 left in the first half.
Langford also made a basket for the Spartans, pushing the lead to 33-26 but Dailey answered for Iowa with a jumper from the wing.
Michigan State was leading 36-28 when Garza made a traditional 3-point play with 5:29 left in the first half.
The Hawkeyes just wouldn't go away, unlike so many other games this season when they wilted in the first half.
Ahmad Wagner bulled his way for a basket in the lane that cut the deficit to 38-33 with 4:44 left in the first half. But Michigan State countered with a 3-pointer by Matt McQuaid.
Cook made a jump hook from the right baseline that sliced the lead to 41-35, and then followed that with a block on defense on Michigan's State next possession. Cook also made a basket that cut the lead to 47-40 with about 1 minute remaining before halftime.
Garza then made an off-balance jumper with about six seconds remaining that pulled Iowa to within 48-42 at halftime.
Those expecting the outcome to be a forgone conclusion were wrong.
Iowa's defense left much to be desired in the first half, but Michigan State wasn't much better. Both teams had plenty of open looks and they took advantage. Michigan State shot 59.3 percent in the first half, while Iowa converted on 54.5 percent of its first-half shots.
Izzo was interviewed at halftime and voiced his displeasure with his team's perimeter defense, and was particularly critical of Bridges, who is widely considered a first-round NBA draft pick.
Iowa made 4-of-9 3-point field-goal attempts in the first half, including 2-of-3 from Dailey.
Michigan State had won 10 of the previous 12 meetings between the two teams, but they had split the last six games in Iowa City. The Spartans were ranked No. 1 when they lost to Iowa 83-70 on Dec. 29th, 2015 at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
Former Iowa coach Todd Lickliter even led a victory over Michigan State in his first season with a 43-36 win on Jan. 12, 2008 in Iowa City. Izzo called it the lowest point in his celebrated career.
This has been a trying time for Michigan State's iconic head coach, with Izzo's reputation and legacy now tied to the scandals unfolding at Michigan State.
His team looked lethargic on defense, but found a way to prevail on the road.
Iowa, on the other hand, struggled on defense as usual, but almost had enough offense to pull off the upset.