Jan. 28, 2014
Editor's Note: The following first appeared in the University of Iowa's Hawk Talk Daily, an e-newsletter that offers a daily look at the Iowa Hawkeyes, delivered free each morning to thousands of fans of the Hawkeyes worldwide.
By JAMES ALLAN
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- The sting of last season's three-point loss to Michigan State in the Big Ten Tournament has resurfaced with the No. 6/7 Spartans coming to Carver-Hawkeye Arena for tonight's "Super Tuesday" matchup. The Hawkeyes finally have a chance at redemption.
"Looking back, small plays were pivotal to the turning point of that game," said junior Aaron White of the Spartans' 59-56 win at the United Center in Chicago. "We were up double-digits in the second half. It eats at you, but gets you excited to play (Tuesday)."
The No. 15/12 Hawkeyes (16-4, 5-2) host the Spartans (18-2, 7-1) at 6:05 p.m. (CT) on Mediacom Court inside a sold-out Carver-Hawkeye Arena. The game pits the second and third place teams in the Big Ten Conference standings.
"This is a big opportunity for us," said senior Zach McCabe. "This game is going to be physical and they're going to be a tough team. It isn't going to be easy and that's the best part of it. It's going to be a grind game and our team is well-prepared for that."
"We've been in big games, and we're not going to be intimidated by the atmosphere and stage. They're going to make some runs, and we'll make some runs. We can't get too high or too low at any point. We have to continue to work hard, execute the game plan and do what we do."
UI sophomore Mike Gesell
The Spartans have won 11 of the past 12 meetings in the series. Iowa's lone victory was a 72-52 triumph in Iowa City on Feb. 2, 2011. The Hawkeyes were on the wrong side of three-point losses in both games last season.
White says the key factors to beating Michigan State for the first time in seven tries will be good shot selection, getting back on defense and slowing down the Spartan transition game. He cautioned that is easier said than done.
"That's what they're known for," said White. "Everyone knows going into the game that Michigan State is going to be in the gaps, score in transition and be up in you defensively, and they still get what they need to done. We have to take care of (the ball)."
Turnovers were an issue during both meetings last season. The Hawkeyes didn't have an answer for Michigan State's defensive intensity, which resulted in 37 Iowa turnovers in the two contests.
"Michigan State does a great job of ratcheting up its intensity when it needs a stop," said sophomore Mike Gesell. "It's something we need to respond to. Last year in both games, we weren't able to match that and it led to some mistakes down the stretch.
"We have our whole game plan we're going to follow. If we execute and play our game, we'll be fine."
With the experience and depth on the Iowa roster, Gesell says the Hawkeyes are prepared for the highly anticipated match-up.
"We've been in big games, and we're not going to be intimidated by the atmosphere and stage," he said. "They're going to make some runs, and we'll make some runs. We can't get too high or too low at any point. We have to continue to work hard, execute the game plan and do what we do."
Tuesday's game will be televised on ESPN with Mike Tirico, Jay Bilas and Allison Williams on the call. It is the "Black & Gold Spirit Game," so fans are encouraged to wear gold or black clothing depending on their seat location. Click HERE to see the seating diagram.