A second-place logjam in the Big Ten could start to sort itself out Tuesday night in East Lansing, Mich., when No. 18 Iowa visits No. 24 Michigan State.
Both teams enter 10-6 in the league, tied with Penn State and Wisconsin and two games behind pace-setter Maryland.
The Hawkeyes (19-8 overall) are coming off an 85-76 home win over Ohio State on Thursday. Junior center Luka Garza scored 24 points, right at his season average, and added a season-high four assists.
The national player of the year candidate averaged 12.0 points and five rebounds in his three cracks at the Spartans (18-9) the past three seasons. In 70 combined minutes, he has attempted just eight free throws.
Freshman guard CJ Fredrick has missed the past two games (both wins) with a sprained ankle, but the Hawkeyes' third-leading scorer was "fairly close" to returning against the Buckeyes, Iowa coach Fran McCaffery told reporters after the Ohio State game.
"We need him for the long term," McCaffery said. "We're not trying to steal one game and get 15 minutes out of him. There's no way he could have played 35 minutes. There's no sense putting him out there."
The Hawkeyes, who got 24 points from their two-man bench against Ohio State, are 2-6 on the road against conference foes, with the only wins coming at last-place Northwestern and Minnesota.
Iowa has dropped four straight games to the Spartans and 13 out of 15 in the series overall, dating to March 2011 and McCaffery's first season in Iowa City. In East Lansing, the Hawkeyes have dropped 20 of the past 21 meetings, dating to January 1994 and Jud Heathcote's penultimate season at the Spartans' helm.
Iowa's past five road losses in the series have come by an average of 19.2 points. That includes a 90-68 loss in their most recent visit on Dec. 3, 2018.
"Others have to step up," McCaffrey said. "That's the way we have to play. We just can't put it all on Garza and (Joe) Weiskamp. That's not the team we have."
The Spartans have dropped two straight at the Breslin Center and are looking for back-to-back wins for the first time since late January.
Spartans senior guard Cassius Winston is coming off a 23-point night in an 86-65 win at Nebraska last Thursday. Winston, an All-America candidate, needs 27 points to pass Jay Vincent (1977-81) for sixth in program history.
"I can't be very excited about us," Michigan State coach Tom Izzo told reporters after the Nebraska win. "Thank God for my sophomores. We struggled. What we did isn't going to get us where we need to get."
Despite going to a four-guard lineup at times against the Cornhuskers, Michigan State committed a season-high 22 turnovers. They figure to rely more on a bigger lineup against the 6-foot-11 Garza, who is shooting nearly 56 percent from the field but just 64.7 percent from the foul line.
Garza is averaging 9.6 rebounds and 1.7 blocks per game.
"Every team presents a different challenge," Izzo said. "Now we'll play a team in Iowa who's bigger than big."
--Field Level Media