The Michigan State Spartans snuck by with a 62-59 win against the Iowa Hawkeyes on Thursday night. Amazingly, the Spartans didn’t get their first lead of the game until a score of 43-42. Both teams played sloppy, and both teams shot under 46% from the field. The Spartans were led by a career high 14 points from Branden Dawson.
The good news for the Spartans in their unimpressive win was the play of Dawson. The sophomore shooting guard had a career high 17 points. Dawson also contributed four rebounds, three assists and three steals. Dawson’s most impressive plays of the game don’t show up in the box score. One of Dawson’s steals led to a tie-breaking dunk and provided the momentum the Spartans needed to close out the game.
Since Big Ten play began, Dawson has provided increased production for the Spartans. In a loss to Minnesota, Dawson had only eight points, but shot 57% from the field. Against Purdue, Dawson had 14 points and a career high 11 rebounds. Dawson has now set career highs in back to back games. Coming into Thursday’s game, Dawson was averaging 9.9 points and 6.3 rebounds per game.
Dawson is the third leading scorer and often overshadowed by Keith Appling and Gary Harris. Dawson also averages the third highest number of rebounds in Spartans’ games during the 2012-2013 season. Dawson ranks first on the team with 1.8 steals per game and provided the key one in tonight’s game. If the Spartans are to advance far in the Big Ten and conference tournament, it will be because of contributions from role players like Dawson.
The Spartans now face two very winnable games against Nebraska and Penn State. After that the team faces three games against good competition (Ohio State, @Wisconsin, @Indiana, where the Spartans will need to win two of them to stay competitive in the Big Ten. In my conference preview, I predicted the Spartans would win four of the next five, with the Hoosiers providing the sole loss. I thought the Spartans could finish with a 13-5 record, good enough for fourth place in the league.