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March 11, 2006
Iowa advances to Big Ten finals
INDIANAPOLIS - For the second straight game, Iowa let an opposing star score big.
And for the second straight day, Iowa won.
The Hawkeyes overcame Maurice Ager's 21 points to beat the Spartans 53-48 on Saturday in the Big Ten tournament semifinals.
On Friday night, Minnesota's Vincent Grier scored 29 points against the Hawkeyes in a losing cause. On Saturday, team defense and balanced scoring again were the difference for Iowa (24-8). Jeff Horner scored 14 points and Greg Brunner added 12 for the second-seeded Hawkeyes, who advanced to play the Ohio State. It will be the Hawkeyes' first finals appearance since 2002.
Ager shot 8-for-18, but Iowa's intense defensive style caused the rest of the Spartans to shoot 7-for-35. Michigan State (22-11) set season lows for points and field-goal percentage (28.3). Shannon Brown, the Spartans' second-leading scorer this season, shot 3-for-16 and was held to eight points, 10 below his average.
''It was rough,'' Brunner said. ''The refs did a great job and said they were going to let the players fight and determine the game.''
Ager was the only Michigan State player to make a field goal in the final 8 minutes. He made five 3-pointers, one short of the tournament single-game record. He made two 3-pointers in the final minute of play, but the Hawkeyes made nine of 10 free throws in the final 2 minutes.
Michigan State played in Friday's late game, which started at 9:10 p.m. About 14 hours later, the Spartans were playing again.
Michigan State also had played an extra tournament game to reach the semifinals because of its lower seed. Michigan State coach Tom Izzo, at first, said playing three games in three days wasn't a factor. He later changed his mind.
''I was very disappointed in our execution and some of our guard play,'' he said. ''Maybe we were a little fatigued. We were short on a lot of shots.''
Iowa coach Steve Alford said he saw a difference in Michigan State's play between the first half and the second half.
''They played three games in three days. That's not easy,'' he said. ''They don't have a real deep bench right now. We just wanted to wear on them.''
Iowa shot just 37 percent, but outscored Michigan State 21-11 from the free throw line.
Ager made two 3-pointers in an 8-0 run to start the game. Iowa didn't make a field goal until 14:25 remained in the first half.
Brunner scored two buckets at the end of an 11-0 run that tied the score at 15 and forced a Michigan State timeout with 4:59 left in the half.
''We stuck it out,'' Brunner said. ''We knew they would come out jacked up and ready to play. That's their style. They always come out big in the first couple minutes, and big in the second half.''
Michigan State finished with 18 turnovers.
''The turnovers were made at ridiculous times,'' Izzo said. ''And the number ... Give them credit. They (Iowa) hung in there. It was an ugly game.''• Play Rivals.com Bracket Battles! Leagues are forming now!