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Michigan State basketball coach Tom Izzo speaks to the media after the 69-55 victory over Maryland on Monday, January 21, 2019 in East Lansing.
Chris Solari, Detroit Free Press

EAST LANSING – Nr. 6 Michigan State may begin its most gruesome stretch of the season.

Although coach Tom Izzo called the early nonconference chart one of the toughest of his 24-year-old Hall of Fame career, the sixth ranked Spartans are heading for another two way games on back-to-back short preps.

"It's hard, travel and fast turnarounds", MSU junior point guard Cassius Winston said Tuesday after practice. "And we play really good teams."

It begins Thursday, with MSU visiting No. 19 Iowa (19.00 / FS1) and then continuing Sunday in Purdue, the third and fourth road games In a five-game stretch for Izzo's team .

Here are three things to see between the first Spartans (17-2, 8-0 Big Ten) and Hawkeyes (15-3, 4-3). [19659008] Dueling streaks

Izzo said Iowa is another team since the Spartans dumped them 90-68 in their first meeting on December 3. Hawkeyes, who beat Illinois 95-71 on Sunday, has won five straight and 10 of their last 11 games. Their last loss came on January 3 in Purdue.

"Iowa played really well early, so they didn't play well for a few weeks," Izzo said. "And we were that week."

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The Spartans are on a 12-win win-streak and 20 straight-conference regular-season games that go back to a home loss to Michigan on January 13, 2018. They have not lost one Road Big Ten games ago fell to Ohio State six days earlier last season.

"Winning makes things much easier, for sure," Winston said. "It's really fun with coaches and practice, everything."

MSU won the lonely meeting in Iowa, 96-93.

Iowa is headed by junior Tyler Cook, a 6-foot-9 forward, averaging 16.5 points and 8.2 rebounds. MSU held Cook for 15 points and eight rebounds at the first meeting. He is one of five Hawkeyes scores in dual characters, along with strangers Luka Garza (13.9), freshman swingman Joe Wieskamp (11.9), junior guards Jordan Bohannon (11.2) and Isaiah Moss (10.0).

Michigan State's Cassius Winston, left, and Iowa's Ryan Kriener go after the ball in the second half Monday, December 3, 2018 at the Breslin Center in East Lansing. Michigan State beat Iowa 90-68. [Foto: Nick King / Lansing State Journal]

See Winston

Winston, the big ten reigning player of the week and MSU's leading scorer said on Tuesday that he has been fighting tendinitis in his knees. It was before he slammed his right knee – already covered by Kinesio tape and a sleeve – on the floor during Monday's victory over Maryland, even though he worked out the pain for his sixth straight game and the 12th time this season plays 30 plus minutes. [19659005] "When I go, it's not hard to play when I'm loose," Winston said. "But if it stays up again, it's really hard to get loose again. … It's probably the hardest part, get up and down and try to get my muscles loose and things like that. But when I'm loose, I have it fine. "

Kyle Ahrens (back) returned and played 12 minutes against Terrapins, while junior wing Joshua Langford remained out of the sixth straight game. Langford, who averages 15.0 points a game, has worked and shot alone without getting started, but is not yet back to practice with the team. The timetable for his return remains uncertain.

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Junior Nick Ward endured the first scoreless fight in his career career Monday, missing three shots and struggling spooky problems limiting him to just 14 minutes toward Maryland.

"You can't dwell on that game," Ward said. "It has affected the way I played, which I can't let affect the way I play."

6-9 forward-looking had a big game the first time around Iowa, making all 10 of his shots to 26 points at that time his career high. Ward also grabbed nine rebounds and blocked two shots, but he also made four mistakes in that game.

And against a team the second time, he said, is more challenging. Especially on the road.

"They know everything about you. They know your ins and outs, and it's pretty hard," Ward said. "The benefits in the home are something right … so we just have to overcome it."

Prediction

MSU 71, Iowa 66: Hawkeyes is 11-1 at home this season with a loss for Wisconsin just before the first MSU game in December. Iowa is an average of nine 3-pointers a game since the last loss. However, the Spartans have also improved with Winston's development, but expect a wasted game from a more resting ward to be the difference.

Contact Chris Solari: csolari@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @chrissolari. Download our Spartans Xtra app for free on Apple and Android devices!