2011 Big Ten Men's Basketball Tournament
2011 Big Ten Tournament First Round Recap - Michigan State vs Iowa
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(7) Michigan State 66, (10) Iowa 61
The NCAA Tournament, a given in East Lansing, Michigan, over the past few decades, was slipping away for the Michigan State Spartans. Fortunately, the team that has overachieved for so many seasons stopped its underachieving ways just in the nick of time.
Yes, on Thursday afternoon in Indianapolis, Michigan State was on the verge of sliding to the NIT just one year after finishing its second consecutive run to the Final Four. Michigan State, the biggest overachiever in the sport from 1999 through 2010 under the brilliant leadership of a gifted coach, Tom Izzo, was about to take a No. 2 preseason ranking and plummet out of the race for a spot in the field of 68. Perched squarely on the bubble, there was no other way to say it: A loss to Iowa and coach Fran McCaffery was going to knock Sparty out of the running for the Big Dance. Too many other teams are going to play and win games over the upcoming weekend. At least beating Iowa was an absolute necessity; many people thought the Spartans had to win two games at this tournament to feel somewhat safe on Selection Sunday, but one win was an absolute, non-negotiable requirement. Yet, with 11:45 left in regulation, Michigan State trailed the tenth seed in the tournament by a 53-45 score. MSU’s offense – like its season – was on life support.
Fortunately, a team used to winning much bigger basketball games – in the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight rounds at the NCAA Tournament – was able to pull through in this must-win situation.
Michigan State popped off a 12-2 run to tie the score at 55-all heading into the home stretch, and with the game still tied at 59 with 4:38 to go, a familiar face stepped into the breach to rescue the Spartans for at least 24 hours.
Durrell Summers, the same man whose late-game dunk powered Michigan State past Connecticut in the 2009 Final Four national semifinals, and whose late-stage shots carried Michigan State in the 2010 Midwest Regional in St. Louis, answered the call once more. Summers, who struggled through a miserable regular season, scored seven points in the final 4:38 to lift MSU to the Big Ten quarterfinals and a game against Purdue that is a must-win in the eyes of many bracketologists, though the verdict is not quite unanimous. What is unanimous is that Summers saved MSU’s bacon on a day when MSU hit just 41 percent of its shots, nailed only four 3-pointers, and committed 15 turnovers.
Iowa played hard and well, giving hope that an encouraging season under McCaffery – a first-year coach – will lead to bigger successes in the years ahead. Michigan State played poorly, but the Spartans can say one thing: They’re still alive in the chase for an NCAA Tournament berth.
Next Game: Big Ten Quarterfinal No. 3
(7) Michigan State vs. (2) Purdue – 6:40 p.m. ET, Big Ten Network
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