Keith Appling scored in double figures for the first time in more than five weeks and No. 22 Michigan State looked healthier than it had in months in an 86-76 victory over No. 24 Iowa on Thursday night.
Appling showed his old aggressiveness before hip and wrist injuries and scored 12 points for the Spartans (23-7, 12-5 Big Ten). Travis Trice, Appling's backup, was 3 for 4 from 3-point range and had 16 points, while Adreian Payne added 14 points in his final home game.
Denzel Valentine had 13 points and nine assists for Michigan State, which looked a lot like the team that is 19-2 with a healthy Branden Dawson in the lineup.
Roy Devyn Marble had 24 points for Iowa (20-10, 9-8) which has continued to struggle on defense and is 1-4 over the past two weeks.
Michigan State shot 58.3 percent from the field and 58.8 percent from 3-point range, while outscoring Iowa 20-13 at the free throw line, something the Spartans hadn't done in a 4-6 swoon.
The crowd came alive early in the second half when Appling hit a free throw and drove the baseline for a reverse layup in traffic. A tough-angle bank shot by Gary Harris put Michigan State up by five points and forced an Iowa timeout.
Appling's steal and layup made it 48-43 before a drive by Marble ended a 11-0 run. But Breslin Center erupted seconds later when the Spartans took an eight-point lead on a 3-pointer Appling wouldn't have tried for several weeks while his right wrist was bothering him.
Iowa cut the deficit to two points as Aaron White scored his first two baskets of the game, only to see Michigan State answer with a 7-0 run. Matt Costello's four free throws sandwiched a 3-pointer by Kenny Kaminski and made it 60-51.
After the taller Hawkeyes drew within five points, Trice built the lead to 13 points on two 3s and a 10-foot floater as the shot clock expired. When Appling dribbled through a zone press and flipped an alley-oop pass to Dawson the lead grew to 72-59.
Four free throws by Trice — two after a technical foul on Iowa coach Fran McCaffery — ended all the suspense. After a double-foul skirmish that led to a long check of the monitor, Appling's second 3 gave the crowd one more reason to stick around for postgame festivities honoring the seniors.
The Spartans got off to a much better start than they did last Saturday in a 53-46 loss to Illinois. Valentine was in reach of a triple-double by halftime with 10 points, seven assists and five rebounds. Harris added 10 early points on 4-for-5 shooting and helped his team go up by six points, the biggest lead for either team in the first 20 minutes.
But the Hawkeyes chipped away and led 41-39 at halftime behind Marble's 16 points and three assists. The Michigan native was 7 of 10 from the field, using step-back moves to create all the space he needed.
Iowa had 11 points off turnovers in the first half and had a 14-6 edge in bench points, enough to counteract Michigan State's 62.5 percent shooting from long range. That would change in the second half as the Spartans avoided their fifth home loss this season.