The Iowa Basketball team travels to East Lansing tonight for the second of two games with the Michigan State Spartans. Iowa was able to upend the Spartans in their first meeting in Iowa City, but does a healthy Denzel Valentine change things?
The Iowa Hawkeyes haven’t won inside the Breslin Center in their last 18 tries. That is something they can change tonight.
Michigan State is coming off a 92-65 drubbing of the Penn State Nittany Lions, which was the game that their star, Denzel Valentine, made his return in. Valentine came off the bench and scored 10 points while gathering 4 rebounds in his 23 minutes. Looking at Valentines line, he looked a little rusty, but who can blame him?
After missing four straight games, anyone is going to have trouble getting back into the swing of things.
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Iowa fans shouldn’t worry about Valentine’s return. While Valentine is this teams best player, this is still a very good team without him. Bryn Forbes is as good of a guard as you’ll find in the Big Ten and if it wasn’t for Anthony Clemmons holding him to a 1-5 night shooting on December 29th, that game could’ve gone a whole different direction.
When asked about the last meeting with the Hawkeyes, Tom Izzo wasn’t quick to blame the loss on Valentine’s absence. He thought his team was lacking effort.
"“The energy level better be up (Thursday) because that to me was the most disappointing game I’ve played in in a couple years. Not with the loss, but with the way we played.” – Tom Izzo, espn.com"
It’s hard not to agree with the veteran head coach. Iowa looked like they wanted it more and as cliche as that sounds, it’s got a lot of truth to it. Clemmons was consistently inside Forbes’ shorts and Mike Gesell was about as aggressive as I’ve ever seen him. Toss in 19 points from Peter Jok and 11 and 5 from Nicholas Baer off the bench and you have a solid recipe for success.
One thing that does have me worried is the health of Clemmons. Not only did he shut down Forbes, but he’s also returning to his hometown with the goal to impress. Keep in mind, he did suffer a hip injury against Purdue, but hopefully the nine day layoff has helped him get back to close to full strength.
While Valentine didn’t miss much time, he still cited that the team will have to get used to him being back out there.
"“It’s tough to throw a player like me in where we’ve been playing with the same group for four games because I do some things and people may not be ready for (them), So we have to get used to playing with each other.” – Valentine, espn.com"
Valentine does dominate the ball a lot, but this team is so experienced and well coached that I don’t see them missing a beat with him out there.
I’m not sure if Valentine will get the start, but he’s for sure going to play as the fourth rated Spartans look for revenge on our Hawkeyes.
Iowa and Michigan State will tip off at 6:00 p.m. CT inside the Breslin Center.