EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP)—Tom Izzo has coached plenty of good teams at Michigan State the last 11 seasons.
Izzo said, however, he has never had three Spartans on one team more talented than the terrific trio he has now.
Maurice Ager scored 25 points, Paul Davis had 19 and Shannon Brown added 17 to lead No. 11 Michigan State over No. 23 Iowa 85-55 Saturday, its most lopsided victory in a series that dates back to 1937.
“When the three of us are on, we’re really tough,” Davis said. “There are not a lot of teams that can keep up with us when we play like that.”
The Spartans’ Big Three are averaging 17 points or more a game—the only trio in the nation scoring that much.
“We have not had three guys as prolific as those three,” Izzo said. “They’ve been pretty special, and they’re good guys that are going to graduate, making them the total package.”
At halftime, the trio combined for 27 points and were outscored by Iowa’s entire team by only one point.
“When they’re all clicking like that, they’re a hard group to play against,” Iowa coach Steve Alford said.
The Spartans (15-4, 3-2 Big Ten) led by nine at halftime, then turned the game into a rout with a 12-2 run to start the second half against the Hawkeyes (14-5, 3-2) and won by their largest margin of the season.
“I don’t think there’s any question that was our best performance of the year, against a really good team,” Izzo said. “That was our best basketball in a couple of years.”
Adam Haluska scored 19 and Greg Brunner had 17 points and 11 rebounds for Iowa, which had won three straight and seven of eight.
“This isn’t the end of the season, but it’s a bad defeat,” Alford said.
Michigan State has won three straight after losing its first two Big Ten games. The Spartans are 5-3 against ranked teams, including three victories over teams that were in the top 10 when they played.
Drew Neitzel had 11 points and six assists for the Spartans, who have won 11 straight at home against Iowa.
“A big key was Neitzel, who got by our guards better than anybody has all season,” Alford said.
The Spartans shot 50 percent, making 30 baskets on 26 assists.
“When we play that way, it’s tough to beat us,” Ager said. “The key was passing the way we did.”
Michigan State never trailed and the closest the Hawkeyes got was 2-0.
The Spartans built their first cushion with a 10-2 run midway through the first half, taking a 19-8 lead, and they led 37-28 at halftime.
Four different Michigan State players scored during the decisive run at the start of the second half, which gave Michigan State a 49-30 lead. The Spartans kept scoring from all over the court, connecting on 61 percent of their shots after halftime.
Iowa’s Jeff Horner was held to six points—half his average—and the Hawkeyes made 34 percent of their shots.
“I never felt like we were in it,” Alford said. “They are very good at the start of each half, that’s their staple. We weren’t very good, and they were awfully good and they’re tough to beat here when they play that way.”
Since the start of the 1998-99 season—Izzo’s fourth as head coach—the Spartans are 107-7 at home.