Iowa guard Maishe Dailey (1) looks for an open pass around Wisconsin's T.J. Schlundt (20) during the NCAA men's basketball game between Iowa and Wisconsin at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Tuesday, Jan. 23, 2018. The Hawkeyes are going into the game with a conference record of 1-7. Iowa went on to defeat Wisconsin 85-67. (Ben Allan Smith/The Daily Iowan)

Iowa begins stretch of ranked opponents with Michigan State.

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After a rough outing at Penn State, things get even more difficult for Iowa as it hosts No. 4 Michigan State.

By Pete Ruden

peter-ruden@uiowa.edu

It’s not getting any easier for Fran McCaffery’s Hawkeyes.

After suffering an 82-58 beat-down at Penn State, Iowa returns home to take on No. 4 Michigan State in what could be the seventh-straight win for the Spartans.

Even worse for the Hawkeyes, they might have to go into battle without one of their biggest stars — point guard Jordan Bohannon is suffering an illness.

Bohannon’s absence would likely give Maishe Dailey more time at the 1. Brady Ellingson could also get some minutes at the position; McCaffery said he expects him to play after missing the previous four contests with a concussion.

Dailey, whose emergence was a key for Iowa early in the season, has the chance to be the player the Hawkeyes need yet again.

“I like his athleticism and his ability to mix it up both offensively and defensively,” forward Tyler Cook said. “He can score the ball and also distribute when he needs to. I think the more he grows in this point-guard role and the more he grows as a player, the better he’ll get at that.”

McCaffery said in terms of pure talent, Michigan State’s starting five is the best in the country, and there is definitely a case in East Lansing.

Led by Miles Bridges at 17.4 points per game, all five Spartan starters average double figures in the scoring column and have the ability to put up big numbers.

With the depth they have as well, it’s no surprise they’ve only lost three games all season — all to teams that are currently ranked.

There’s no doubt whether this is one of the most talented teams Iowa will face all year. With a lineup full of future professionals, the Hawkeyes will have their hands full at all positions.

“[They’ve] got two lottery picks and three other guys got a good shot at it, at playing in the pros,” McCaffery said.

For Iowa, one of the biggest keys will be improving its defense.

RELATED: Breaking down Iowa’s broken defense

The Hawkeyes are still dead last in the conference in scoring defense and rank 12th in opponents’ field-goal percentage.

They have been a solid team offensively, scoring 80.2 points a game for third in the conference, but inconsistency, such as the game against Penn State, are hard to overcome.

Poor play on the defensive end has affected the team on offense, making it hard to consistently get buckets, McCaffery said.

“Young teams don’t work together defensively as well as veteran teams, and that’s clearly been a problem,” he said. “We’re giving up high shooting percentages too often, which puts incredible pressure on your offense to score, and we have had a number of games where we scored the ball really well, it’s just they scored more. That’s part of the growth process.”

However, that the game is in Carver-Hawkeye gives the Hawkeyes a slight advantage. Iowa has won its last two home games by a combined 32 points.

The Hawkeyes have been a decent matchup against the Spartans at home in recent years, including a win over then-No. 1 Michigan State in 2015.

Iowa played well in the home wins over Wisconsin and Minnesota, but the Spartans are a much better team.

The home-court advantage didn’t work against another Big Ten blueblood in Purdue, but Iowa seems to play more confidently in the Carver confines.

“I think there’s a level of just being comfortable, especially with the rims and shooting,” forward Luka Garza said. “We’ve done so much practicing here, I think we shoot better at home sometimes. We have a good home-court advantage, we love our fans, so it definitely helps to be playing on our home court, especially against a team like this.”

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