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IOWA CITY, Iowa Iowa coach Fran McCaffery was short and sour.
His demeanor was grim and agitated. Iowa had more chances than one could count to pull out a season-defining win against No. 22 Michigan State, yet the Hawkeyes were left to explain another loss.
This one, a 62-59 defeat to the Spartans, was more difficult for McCaffery and his players to absorb than the other two in Big Ten play. Maybe because this one was winnable, while the others were either hopeful (Indiana) or highly unlikely (Michigan).
"We did just about everything to lose the game," Iowa sophomore Aaron White said.
Iowa (11-5, 0-3 Big Ten) led by 12 points more than halfway through the first half, even without injured leading scorer Devyn Marble. The Hawkeyes hit 10 of their first 14 shots. They controlled the boards and played defense. Then they got sloppy.
Iowa scored on only one of 15 possessions to finish the first half, and Michigan State (13-3, 2-1) chopped its deficit to four points. Worst of all, Iowa finished with 18 turnovers, including four during a 10-0 Michigan State run late in the first half.
"We had momentum, and next thing you know they're dunking the ball," McCaffery said. "That cannot happen. "Now you could say, 'Well, we've got two freshman point guards out there.' I don't care. They're not freshmen any more. I don't care if you're a freshman. I don't care what grade you're in. You cannot turn the ball over in those situations."
Later, Iowa led 56-53 with 1:04 left in the game when Michigan State guard Gary Harris air-balled a 3-point attempt. White nudged Harris on the follow-through, and Harris went to the free-throw line shooting three.
"You can't foul a 3-point shooter," McCaffery said curtly.
"I don't think there was contact," White said. "I don't know what to say. They called it.
"It is what it is, but I don't think I got him."
Harris sank all three attempts to tie the game. On Iowa's next possession, guard Mike Gesell's pass to Zach McCabe was intercepted by Michigan State's Branden Dawson, who put the Spartans in the lead with a breakaway dunk.
White was fouled on Iowa's next series and knocked down one free throw. After MSU inbounded and retained possession following a jump ball, MSU's Keith Appling was fouled and hit both shots.
Iowa point guard Anthony Clemmons, a Lansing, Mich., native tried to score a quick layup but was fouled with 15 seconds left. He made the first and missed the second. White kept the ball alive, and Clemmons reclaimed it. He was fouled with 12.4 seconds left with an opportunity to tie the game.
He made one, missed the other.
"Mentally I thought I was there," Clemmons said. "Physically I thought I was there. It just came off short."
Appling was fouled again, and knocked down both shots to boost the Spartans' lead to three points with 8.9 seconds left. McCaffery led the sequence ride without calling a timeout and said afterward he gave no thought to it. Clemmons looked for sophomore Josh Oglesby, who was covered up. Zach McCabe, who had hit three 3-pointers earlier in the game, was open in the corner, but Clemmons threw up a 3-point shot that was wide of the rim as the buzzer sounded.
"There's a lot of guys that had opportunities I think," McCabe said. "Me if I was open, I don't know, whatever."