Iowa sends No. 1 Michigan State to first loss

Posted at 11:45 PM, Dec 29, 2015
and last updated 2015-12-29 23:45:11-05

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Michigan State discovered just how tough things can be without do-everything star Denzel Valentine.

Mike Gesell scored a career-high 25 points and Iowa cruised past the top-ranked Spartans 83-70 on Tuesday night, handing them their first loss of the season.

Peter Jok had 19 points for the Hawkeyes (10-3), which toppled a No. 1 team for the first time in 16 years.

Iowa never trailed in what turned out to be a surprisingly easy win over the Spartans (13-1). The Hawkeyes led by as many as 19 points in snapping a nine-game losing streak against Michigan State.

Eron Harris scored 21 points to lead the Spartans. They were playing their second game without Valentine -- their leader in scoring, rebounds and assists -- and their first since coach Tom Izzo's father Carl died Monday.

Michigan State struggled mightily in its first game without Valentine, needing overtime to hold off mid-major Oakland 99-93. The Spartans looked so underwhelming minus Valentine, who is out likely through next week after arthroscopic surgery on his left knee, that the unranked Hawkeyes were actually a slight favorite.

From the opening tip, it was easy to see why.

Iowa kept Michigan State off the scoreboard for nearly 6 minutes, and Dom Uhl's banked 3 put the Hawkeyes up 31-17 -- despite having star Jarrod Uthoff on the bench with foul trouble -- with just over 5 minutes left in the first half.

The Spartans trailed by double digits at halftime for the second straight game. Iowa led 37-23 following Michigan State's lowest-scoring first half of the season.

But the Hawkeyes aren't Oakland -- and the Spartans simply couldn't keep up.

Consecutive 3s from Jok made it 58-39 with 11 minutes left, and Iowa cruised to its first win over a No. 1 team since beating Connecticut in former coach Steve Alford's debut in 1999.

Matt Costello had 17 points for Michigan State.


Michigan State: Valentine entered Big Ten play averaging 18.5 points, 8.3 rebounds, 7.1 assists per game. ...The Spartans play four of their first six Big Ten games on the road but close league play with four out of six in East Lansing. ... Alvin Ellis inadvertently deflected an inbounds pass into Iowa's basket early in the second half.

Iowa: The Hawkeyes lost to Dayton, Notre Dame and Iowa State in non-conference play by a combined 12 points. ... Iowa held a moment of silence for Izzo's father, and its fans followed with a polite ovation. ... Iowa was the second team from its state to take down the top-ranked team at home this season. Northern Iowa knocked off North Carolina in November in Cedar Falls.


Michigan State plays at Minnesota on Saturday.

Iowa visits No. 14 Purdue on Saturday.