Iowa withstands furious comeback attempt by Michigan State

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Michigan State's Kalisha Keane pulled up from nearly the exact spot where she beat Iowa with a 3-pointer two weeks ago and launched one more that could've broken the hearts of the Hawkeyes.

This time, Kachine Alexander got a fingernail on the ball. Two missed putbacks later, Iowa (No. 21 ESPN/USA Today, No. 18 AP) escaped with a win it needed to stay afloat in the conference race.

Lykendra Johnson missed a pair of putbacks after Keane airballed a 3 from the corner and Iowa held off the Spartans 66-64 Thursday night to move back to .500 in the Big Ten.

Alexander had 23 points and 11 rebounds to lead the Hawkeyes (16-5, 4-4 Big Ten). She also stuck with Keane defensively after switching off and watching her drill a 3 with less than a second left to lead Michigan State (No. 11 ESPN/USA Today, No. 10 AP) past Iowa 63-60 in East Lansing on Jan. 13.

"[Alexander] was right there. I think she even got a fingernail on it," Iowa coach Lisa Bluder said. "We didn't want to give up those two offensive rebounds at the end, and it just was meant to be for us."

Michigan State got the ball with 9 seconds left down by two. Johnson had two close chances from the weak side after Keane's missed 3, but her final shot rimmed out as the horn sounded.

Brittney Thomas had 17 points, Keane had 14 points and 10 rebounds and Johnson grabbed 15 rebounds to lead Michigan State (18-3, 6-2).

All three of the Spartans' losses have come on the road against ranked teams.

"I felt like it was definitely what we wanted," Michigan State coach Suzy Merchant said of the final possession. "We had one to win and two to tie and they just didn't drop."

Neither team led by more than six points all night, so it only figured that such a back-and-forth affair would come down to the end again.

Thomas followed a 3 with a jumper to get the Spartans within 63-61 with 2:07 left. Keane then missed a 3 that would have given the Spartans the lead, and Kelly Krei answered by burying an open 3 from the corner that put Iowa ahead 66-61 with 54 seconds left.

It appeared to be the clincher for Iowa, but Keane redeemed herself with a long 3 at the other end and Iowa ran the clock down to 9 seconds left without getting a shot off.

Jaime Printy and Krei each scored 11 for Iowa, which shot 50 percent from the floor.

"It was just like it was back at their place. Back and forth, and both teams played pretty well," Bluder said.

Michigan State's defense, which entered tops in the Big Ten, held the Hawkeyes to just three points in 9 minutes early in the second half. The Spartans took advantage, turning a five-point deficit into a 46-40 lead on Thomas' layup with 10:07 left.

Iowa's offense sprung to life after that, though, reeling off a 15-4 run to grab the lead back.

Printy put Iowa back on top by stepping back and drilling a 25-footer from the top of the key, and Krei followed with a 3 on the next possession to give the Hawkeyes a 55-52 lead with 6:24 left.

Kamille Wahlin then found a trailing Alexander for a wide-open layup through the paint, pushing Iowa's lead to 59-54.

The Spartans opened the game with a 10-4 run and looked set to run away with it, but that was their biggest lead of the night. The Hawkeyes capped the first half with a 9-1 run, as Kalli Hansen's late 3 put Iowa ahead 35-32.

Iowa had some open looks at the start of the second half that could have stretched that lead. The Hawkeyes couldn't knock them down, though, allowing Michigan State to tie it at 37.

Iowa rallied from a late eight-point deficit to tie it up in the first meeting, only to watch Keane sink the game-winner from the corner.

That shot didn't fall for Keane on Thursday, and neither did Johnson's two chances to send the game into overtime.

"I just like, put a hand up with everything, and I tipped it," Alexander said. "The rest is history."