Iowa men’s basketball meets Michigan State

The Hawkeyes and Spartans tip Thursday at 6 p.m. in East Lansing.

The Iowa men’s basketball team will play Michigan State Thursday at 6 p.m. in East Lansing. The competition will be televised on FS1.

The Spartans check in at 13-7 and 5-4 in the Big Ten while the Hawkeyes are 12-7 in the year and 4-4 in conference play.

A big part of Michigan State’s success so far this season, Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery said, has been the Spartans’ backcourt tandem of senior Tyson Walker and junior AJ Hoggard.

“I think he played about as well as anyone I’ve seen on tape,” McCaffery said of Walker at a Zoom press conference on Wednesday. “[He has] great confidence [he is] to score the ball with a high clip. I think the development of Hoggard played a big part in that. “

“I liked Hoggard last year, I think he’s going to be elite,” McCaffery continued. “So now Walker can play the ball and sometimes he has it. But he can go get buckets. I mean he can hit the ball at different levels and get to the edge. He’s got some serious pull-up game, he can do three-pointers. And he’s a late-game shotmaker. I think these two guys together were really good for this team. But they were also really good together.”

Walker and Hoggard are averaging 14.2 and 12.9 points per game, respectively — up from 8.2 and 7.0 a season ago.

Hoggard also contributes 6.1 assists per game, good for second place in the Big Ten.

To stop the dynamic duo, McCaffery said his team needs to do a better job defensively than they did in the Ohio State loss, when the Hawkeyes gave up a season-high 93 points.

TIED TOGETHER: Iowa men’s basketball ends winning streak with loss to Ohio State

“They ran their stuff at their pace,” McCaffery said of the Buckeyes. “You confused penetration and post-ups. And they went back and got their wife, so you know, you have to break the rhythm. They were in a really good rhythm and we didn’t do anything to disturb him.”

However, McCaffery said Iowa took an on-to-the-next-one approach and in practice worked diligently to correct the defensive and rebound problems that led to the Columbus loss. Iowa lost the rebound fight in the second half 21-10.

“They were really professional, as I expected,” McCaffery said of his team. We weren’t that connected at both ends of the floor, that was obvious… We’re not a team that rebounds like that, especially in 20 minutes. We played well for a while, we persevered. We did a few runs, you know, we kept cutting it down to eight. It wasn’t possible under eight. And you have to learn from that. This is an adult group and I think their approach was really good.”

In Joe Lunardi’s latest bracketologyIowa was an 8 and the state of Michigan was a 6.