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January 28, 2014

Byrd's big shot lifts MSU in OT, 71-69

IOWA CITY - Locals said it had been a decade or more since Iowa played host to a basketball game this big, but afterward Tom Izzo momentarily had trouble remembering a game he was happier to survive.

"There haven't been many better," Izzo said after Michigan State's 71-69 overtime victory at Iowa.

"We just sucked it up and won a game," Izzo said. "I tell you what, I'm double-proud of my guys. It was a hell of an effort. Their guys played hard; we played hard. Big win for us."

Keith Appling scored 16 points for No. 7 Michigan State in a mammoth victory at No. 15 Iowa. Michigan State handed Iowa its first home loss of the season, and first in 20 games.

It was an important bounce-back game for the ailing Spartans, after letting victory get away on Saturday night against Michigan.

With the win, MSU stays within a game of Michigan while waiting for starters Adreian Payne and Branden Dawson to return from injuries.

Matt Costello had 11 points and 12 rebounds for the Spartans (19-2, 8-1 Big Ten).

Costello's tip-in with 1:14 left in overtime gave Michigan State a 67-64 lead, and Russell Byrd's 3 with 34 seconds put Michigan State up by six - giving the underdog Spartans a pair of unlikely heroes.

Byrd has been stymied by injuries throughout his career and had yet to make an impact as the type of long-range shooter Izzo recruited him to be - until Tuesday night's deep shot from the left corner.

"We talked about return on investments," Izzo said. "I told Russ, 'Hey, I've been hanging with you all this time.' And boy, that was a return on the investment."

Byrd finished with 3 points on 1-of-2 shooting, with 1 rebound in 18 minutes as a role player at power forward.

"We got something out of Russell Byrd," Izzo said.

Michigan State's first four possessions of overtime were slow and ugly as Iowa decided to go with a zone defense. MSU buried itself with shot clock violations on its first and third possessions of overtime. But MSU managed 3-pointers by Valentine and Byrd with the shot clock about to expire on MSU's second and fifth possessions of overtime to fuel the victory.

"I'm happy for him," Izzo said of Byrd. "The poor kid has been through a lot with all his injuries, and I'm happy for us because it was a huge 3 and the players just loved it."

MSU's fourth possession of overtime ended with Costello's tip-in, seconds after a huge offensive rebound by Denzel Valentine off a missed Costello free throw.

Costello finished with 11 points and 12 rebounds, marking the first double-double of his career.

"Matt Costello was a monster," Izzo said. "Keith made a couple of big shots."

Iowa held Michigan State's star guard Gary Harris to 9 points on 3-of-9 shooting. Iowa denied Harris the ball with big guards, while help defenders smartly provided help defense on the catch.

"They took Gary away, they did a heck of a job, and Gary struggled a little bit, but he's still my guy," Izzo said. "A lot of it was their defense, and I don't think he ever realized that they were going to almost box-and-one him to take him away that way. Maybe we didn't do as good a job of getting him open and maybe he didn't do as good a job of getting open. We'll work on that. It's nice when you can learn lessons with wins.

"We got a little run-down and tired and we did some goofy things. There were times when we looked a little disorganized, but when you look at some of the lineups we had, we had guys that had to play positions they had never played.

"It was almost comical on our bench and it wasn't the two guys we were missing that was the problem, it was the foul trouble. Different guys had to play kind of wounded. I just kept saying, 'Who do you want to put in?'

"It was a tough, tough, tough game."

Appling, Harris, Costello, Byrd and Valentine - the five who played most of overtime - each finished the game with four fouls.

Valentine finished with 12 points and six rebounds.

"Denzel had to defend a four-man, a three-man, a two-man, a one-man," Izzo said. "He had to play every position on the floor and I take my hat off to Zell."

Appling played through the pain of a wrist injury to go 6-of-14 from the field including a surprising 3-of-6 from long range, breaking a 1-for-12 drought from 3-point range over the previous four games.

"I thought Appling played awfully well even though he missed those free throws," Izzo said.

In addition to the big triple he made on the third possession of overtime from the right wing against the zone, Appling also nailed a 3-pointer off a high screen to cut an Iowa lead to 57-54 with 5:36 to play.

But Appling missed two free throws with 4.7 seconds to play, failing to pad MSU's 2-point lead.

Seconds earlier, Harris made the mistake of fouling Iowa's Devyn Marble during a lay-up for an and-one which cut the lead to 71-69 with :04 seconds left.

That set up Appling's missed shots, and almost canceled Byrd's status as the game's hero.

But Iowa's Mike Gesell missed a driving layup at the buzzer, absorbing light contact to the body from Appling while missing.

"We wanted to double the ball handler and Russ almost got in Keith's way, and they almost got a pretty good shot," Izzo said.

Marble had 21 points for Iowa (16-5, 5-3), which went without a field goal for the final 10 minutes of regulation and until the final seconds of the 5-minute overtime.

Michigan State held a 25 to 18 edge in field goals made. The teams played evenly in turnovers and rebounding. But Iowa held a 43-20 edge in free throw attempts, and a 30-11 edge in free throws made.

The Hawkeyes boast one of the nation's deepest benches, and they kept threatening to run away from the undermanned Spartans early in the second half.

Michigan State wouldn't let it happen.

The tough-minded Spartans had an answer for nearly every basket that could have swung the momentum back in Iowa's favor.

Valentine hammered his way to the rim for a physical put-back of his own missed 3-pointer, cutting an Iowa lead to 50-48. Travis Trice then followed with 3 off a crossover dribble move to give Michigan State a 51-50 lead.

"Trice came back and made some plays," Izzo said. "Trice gave us some great minutes and ran our team. Travis Trice played a lot better."

Trice finished with 10 points on 3-of-5 shooting from 3-point range. But he, and the Spartan offense, were shaky at the end of regulation in the halfcourt, and throughout overtime. Trice eventually was replaced by Byrd for the last three minutes of overtime.

A dunk by Costello made it 58-57 Spartans with 4:06 left.

"We had a lot of guys that played their roles," Izzo said. "We made some mistakes, we fought through them and I'm proud of them again."

The Hawkeyes had a chance to win, after the Spartans botched their last four possessions of regulation. But Marble missed a runner just before the buzzer - although replays show that Valentine hit the net during the shot and could have been called for basket interference, awarding Iowa the game-winning bucket. But no call was made.

Iowa didn't hit a field goal from the 9:56 mark of the second half until Marble's layup with 6 seconds left in OT.

Aaron White had 10 points for the Hawkeyes, who lost despite hitting 19 more free throws than Michigan State.

Iowa hadn't hosted a Top 25 opponent as a ranked team since 2006, when it last went to the NCAA Tournament. Even Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad made the 2-hour drive from Des Moines to see the program's biggest home game in years.

The Hawkeyes looked like the tighter team early.
Iowa hit just three shots in nearly 16 minutes, and yet hung within 19-18 thanks to a 12-1 disparity in field goals. The Hawkeyes eventually started hitting some baskets though, including a runner by Marble to go up 30-26.

The second half and overtime proved to be a physical, back-and-forth affair between two teams with serious aspirations of a Big Ten title.

In the end, it was the Spartans who pulled out a game featuring 16 lead changes and 11 ties and stayed within shouting distance of league-leading Michigan.

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