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Iowa Shows It’s For Real By Beating No. 1 Michigan State

February 19, 2015: Iowa coach Fran McCaffrey talks to Iowa guard Peter Jok (3) during a Big Ten Conference basketball game between the Rutgers Scarlet Knights and the Iowa Hawkeyes in Carver Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City, Iowa.
Keith Gillett/Icon Sportswire

Down goes No. 1.

It took 14 tries, but on Tuesday night, the Michigan State Spartans finally lost for the first time this season. It was a tough game with both teams showing a lot of fight, but ultimately, Iowa came out on top by a final score of 83-70.

Obviously, the win is absolutely massive for the Hawkeyes. The Spartans were undefeated on the season at 13-0 and were coming off a tough win over Oakland last week. This was an experienced Spartan team that knew how to win. In fact, the Hawkeyes had lost to Michigan State nine straight times before Tuesday night.

In short, beating Michigan State would take more than luck.

Sure, Denzel Valentine was out for Michigan State, but beating a No. 1 ranked team is not an easy task. Even if the Spartans were shorthanded, it wasn’t like Iowa was facing a pushover. Players like Deyonta Davis, Bryn Forbes, and Eron Harris had plenty of talent to hang with plenty of teams.

Nonetheless, Iowa took care of business and that’s what matters most.

The key players for Iowa were Mike Gessell, Peter Jok, and Jarrod Uthoff. All told, Gesell had 25 points and three assists, Jok finished with 19 points, four assists and three rebounds, and Uthoff finished with 10 points, six blocks and five rebounds.

With the win, the Hawkeyes improved to 10-3 overall on the season and added a major marquee win to their resume. Iowa did beat Florida State, Marquette, and Wichita State already this year, but this was undoubtedly the team’s biggest win yet. In fact, according to the NCAA’s RPI measure, the Spartans were No. 2 nationally in RPI.

This is the kind of win that stands out on Selection Sunday.

Along with the win itself, this also continues a streak of positive momentum for Iowa over the last month. During that time period, Iowa has won seven of its last eight games, including three against top 40 KenPom teams. Plus, considering that the only loss in this time period was a freak comeback by a good Iowa State team in Ames, it’s not hard to think that Iowa is truly trending up this season.

Still, even with the importance of this win for the current team, this is really a win that shows a lot about the direction of Iowa’s program.

29 December, 2015: Iowa Hawkeyes forward Jarrod Uthoff (20) hauls down a rebound in the second half during a Big Ten Conference basketball game between the Michigan State Spartans and the Iowa Hawkeyes at Carver Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City, Ia. Iowa upset No. 1 Michigan State 83-70.(Photo by Keith Gillett/Icon Sportswire)

(Photo by Keith Gillett/Icon Sportswire)

No single game can make or break a program, but the Hawkeyes needed a win like this to help legitimize the program’s success the last few years. Iowa has made the last two NCAA Tournaments, been a factor in the Big Ten, and is putting players into the NBA. Nonetheless, the team still needed to show it could compete against top teams.

After Tuesday, that’s no longer the case.

Iowa has finally toppled Goliath.

Sure, it might have been a weaker Goliath due to injury, but this is a win over the No. 1 ranked team in the country. How many teams can say they beat a No. 1 team in a given year? Not many, and with just 14 games in the books, Iowa has already achieved that feat.

There’s still a lot ahead for the Hawkeyes, but Tuesday’s win has the chance to elevate this year’s team and the program to new heights.

If so, maybe it won’t be too long before Iowa can be in contention to be No. 1 instead of in contention to upset No. 1.

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