Iowa 71, No. 13 Michigan St. 69
CHICAGO (AP)—Two players had already fouled out, three more were dangerously close, and Iowa’s bench had been exhausted long ago. When the Big Ten’s best free throw shooter stepped to the line in the final seconds, it seemed as if the Hawkeyes’ luck had finally run out.
But Iowa appears to be on another improbable run to the NCAAs, hanging on for a 71-69 upset of No. 13 Michigan State in the Big Ten tournament on Friday night.
“We want to win the Big Ten tournament, and that’s all we care about right now, really,” said Jeff Horner, who stole Michigan State’s last-gasp inbounds pass to end the game. “Hopefully the selection committee looks at this. It’s kind of out of our hands, but if we get two more wins, then they can’t keep us out.”
And if the Hawkeyes (21-10) keep playing like this, there’s no telling what they can do. Iowa will play No. 23 Wisconsin in Saturday’s semifinals.
Alan Anderson, who led the Big Ten in free throw shooting, had a chance to give Michigan State the win when he went to the line with less than 7 seconds left. But he missed both, and little-used Hawkeyes backup Jack Brownlee came up with a huge rebound.
Brownlee was fouled and made the second free throw. Horner snared the inbounds pass and heaved the ball skyward with a scream, while his teammates rushed onto the floor. The Spartans (22-6) could only watch, stunned, knowing they’d let the game slip from their fingers.
Michigan State, which came into the game as the best foul-shooting team in the nation, was just 15-of-30 from the line. Anderson was 5-of-10 from the line.
The Spartans also had 14 turnovers, and shot just 41 percent.
“We did not deserve to win the game,” Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said. “When you miss 15 free throws—we went a month and we didn’t miss 15 free throws. The game never should have come down to that. We missed free throws all night, we missed layups all night.”
The loss means that Michigan State’s seniors will leave without winning any Big Ten titles, regular season or tournament. They came to campus right after the Spartans won four straight Big Ten titles from 1998-01.
“It definitely goes down as a failure to us,” Torbert said as Anderson shook his head in disgust. “This was basically our last chance to get a Big Ten championship, and we let it go down the drain.”
Iowa had big dreams earlier in the year, beginning the season 12-1. But the Hawkeyes fell apart in Big Ten play, losing nine of their first 13. Worse, leading scorer Pierre Pierce was kicked off the team Feb. 2 after allegations he’d assaulted his ex-girlfriend and broken into her home.
The Hawkeyes rallied to win their last three regular-season games, and came to the Big Ten tournament knowing there was still a chance for them to make the NCAAs. They’d done it before, winning four games in four days in 2001 to capture the Big Ten title and the conference’s automatic bid.
But Iowa had to get by Michigan State, which had won 12 of its last 14.
Even with four players—Doug Thomas, Erik Hansen, Adam Haluska and Greg Brunner—playing with four fouls for the last 5:05, Iowa took the lead for good with 1:40 left when Brunner muscled his way inside for a layup. Haluska then stole the inbounds pass and was fouled, making both shots to give Iowa a 67-63 lead with 1:29 left.
Torbert responded with a 3-pointer that pulled Michigan State to 68-66 with 40 seconds left, getting fouled in the process. Torbert missed the free throw, and Thomas grabbed the rebound. He was quickly fouled and made both free throws.
But the Spartans weren’t done, either. Brown caught the ball with one foot over the 3-point line, looked down and then stepped back before letting it fly with 29.5 seconds left. The shot was good, pulling the Spartans to 70-69.
After another Iowa turnover, Anderson was fouled under the basket. Practically automatic at the line, it looked as if Anderson would win the game for the Spartans.
Oh, no. He missed them both.
When the first clanged off the rim, he clenched his teeth and bowed his head. When he missed the second, it set off a mad scramble for the ball. Brownlee, who played a grand total of 62 minutes during the regular season, came up with the ball.
“Going up to (the line), I knew they were going in,” Anderson said. “No excuse, I just missed them.”
Brownlee missed his first foul shot and then tried to miss the second to run out the clock. But when the ball hit the front of the rim, it caromed back and down through the net.
Michigan State’s Chris Hill heaved a pass toward midcourt, hoping to give Michigan State a chance at a 3. But Horner darted in and grabbed the ball, ending the game.