No. 8 Iowa looks to halt slide vs. Michigan State

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Iowa has the most dominant offensive player in the nation. His coach believes he deserves more chances to score.

Fran McCaffery expressed frustration over the lack of favorable whistles for big man Luka Garza after the eighth-ranked Hawkeyes lost their second straight game. Iowa will try to stop the mini slide when it hosts Michigan State on Tuesday in a Big Ten contest in Iowa City.

Garza, who leads Division I with 26.4 points per game, attempted just one free throw in an 80-75 loss at Illinois on Friday.

"I guess I've got to do a much better job of getting Luka Garza to the free-throw line, apparently," McCaffery said sarcastically. "I'm just a horrendous coach. Just one free throw (for Garza) -- that's my fault. I'll take full blame for that."

Garza is averaging 6.7 free throw attempts per game and has made 74.8 percent of them. He attempted nine free throws in Iowa's previous loss to Indiana on Jan. 21. In the team's last win, a 23-point triumph over Northwestern on Jan. 17, Garza shot two free throws.

Garza still scored 19 points against the Fighting Illini despite playing only 28 minutes due to foul trouble. There were 22 lead changes and eight ties during the contest.

"We had stretches where we could have won this game, and we know that and we reflect on that, and that's unfortunate," Garza said. "We only get to see them once and hopefully we'll get to see them in the Big Ten Tournament or past that."

Iowa (12-4, 6-3 Big Ten) will get to see Michigan State (8-6, 2-6) twice in the first half of February. They were originally scheduled to play in Iowa City on Jan. 14 but COVID-19 issues within the Spartans program forced a postponement.

The Hawkeyes will visit East Lansing on Feb. 13.

Iowa will be busy this week after playing just three games since Jan. 10. It is also scheduled to host Ohio State on Thursday before traveling to Indiana on Sunday.

"We'll handle it," McCaffery said.

It's uncertain whether the Hawkeyes will navigate this week without starting guard CJ Fredrick. He missed the Illinois game with a leg injury. Keegan Murray made his first career start and contributed eight points and eight rebounds.

"We were in a position to win and Luka hardly played, and that's unfortunate," McCaffery said. "Other guys have to grow up and they did."

The Spartans, once a top-5 team, continued their downward spiral with a 79-62 loss at Ohio State on Sunday. They have lost three straight with a trio of postponements in between the first and second of those losses. Their last victory was Jan. 5 against Rutgers.

Michigan State trailed by double digits throughout the second half to the Buckeyes. It shot 32.1 percent from the field and 20.8 percent beyond the arc.

Coach Tom Izzo believes his team is undergoing a crisis of confidence.

"If we get those kinds of shots and we can't make them, we're not going to win any games," he said. "At the beginning of the (season), we were making all those shots."

The COVID-19-related pauses have contributed to the team's demise.

"I don't think our leadership hasn't been good enough. ... We do have to fight through it," Izzo said. "But we're fighting through without practice."

--Field Level Media