IOWA CITY, IOWA - If Michigan State winds up winning the Big Ten title, and surviving its winter of injury and illness, it'll likely point to tonight's game.
The Spartans, down two of their best players and coming off an emotionally stinging loss to rival Michigan, gritted out a 71-69 win in overtime against an Iowa team that had long-since circled this game as marking its arrival.
Iowa's Mike Gesell missed an off-balanced sprinting layup at the buzzer, securing MSU's victory.
Keith Appling missed two free throws with 4.7 seconds left to open the door for the Hawkeyes.
Matt Costello's free throw with 1:47 remaining gave the Spartans the lead. His tip in off a Keith Appling missed layup a few seconds later, followed by a Russell Byrd three-pointer with 30 seconds left, helped it stick.
MSU won likely its final Big Ten game without Adreian Payne, improving to 19-2 on the season and 8-1 in the Big Ten.
The Spartans step out of the Big Ten to face Georgetown Saturday in New York City, before hosting Penn State on Feb. 6, a game in which MSU's star power forward is penciled to return from a foot injury.
Iowa (16-5, 5-3 Big Ten) had a chance to win at the end of regulation, but Roy Devyn Marble missed a runner with a few seconds left, and Melsahn Basabe's put-back caromed off the rim.
Appling badly missed a three-pointer on the other end that could have broken the 61-61 tie.
Appling led the Spartans with 16 points, including a step-back three-pointer in overtime, playing with a taped right wrist.
Denzel Valentine finished with 12 points and Costello had 11 points and 12 rebounds.
The Spartans are perfect on the road this season - 10-0 in away from Breslin Center and 6-0 in true road games.
Marble, from Southfield, scored 21 points for the Hawkeyes to lead all scorers.
Graham Couch is a columnist for the Lansing State Journal.