1. A Targeted Team — For the first time in 12 years, the Iowa men’s basketball program brought top-10 swagger to a fellow opponent’s arena. Quickly the No. 10 Hawkeyes found out Wednesday their rankings matters nearly as much to their opponents as it does to themselves.
No. 21/25 Michigan (14-4, 6-0 Big Ten) outfought and outhustled No. 10 Iowa (15-4, 4-2) for loose balls and for offensive rebounds. The Wolverines were more crisp and efficient on offense and held firm on enough positions defensively to topple the Hawkeyes 75-67.
Iowa’s players have reveled in their role as underdogs, but now they must adjust to being the favorite. With that status brings more intensity and sharper focus, Iowa senior Melsahn Basabe said.
“These guys (Michigan) playing hard and getting out hard, and that’s what you’re going to expect with success,” Basabe said. “It’s not our place to feel sorry for ourselves. Everybody wants the glory, everybody wants to be respected, everybody wants the accolades so it’s the responsibility that comes with that. I don’t think we need to focus on that. I think we need to focus on what we didn’t do (Wednesday) and not let it happen Saturday.”
Iowa committed 14 turnovers, too many too expect to win the game, Coach Fran McCaffery said. But rebounding was where Iowa was hurt the most. The Hawkeyes entered the game as the Big Ten’s rebounding leader with 44.6 per game. Michigan ranked last, averaging only 33.5. But the Wolverines were able to combat Iowa’s size and battle the boards to a virtual draw.
The Hawkeyes had just one more rebound than the Wolverines (33-32), but Michigan’s 10 offensive rebounds led to 14 points. Michigan neutralized a weakness, which allowed the Wolverines to then enhance its areas of strength.
“We got a lot of stops, and we didn’t get the rebound,” Basabe said. “Too many second-chance points, and we played good defense a lot of possessions. We played good defense, but we weren’t getting the rebound so that keeps you on defense longer. That’s never a good thing with a great team like Michigan, who has great shooters and great offensive players.”
Those second-chance opportunities were vital late in the first half for Michigan. With a two-point lead and 2:08 left, Glenn Robinson III missed, and Zak Irvin came up with the rebound. Nik Stauskas, who scored a game-high 26 points, scored on a layup and was fouled by Iowa’s Jarrod Uthoff. Stauskas converted the three-point play to stretch Michigan’s lead to 36-31.
Two possessions later — after a Uthoff basket — Stauskas missed a shot but gained his own rebound and was fouled by Iowa’s Mike Gesell. Stauskas sank two more free throws to make a five-point advantage again.
Irvin, who scored 11 points off the bench, provided maybe Michigan’s most important second-chance basket. Irvin rebounded a Spike Albrecht miss and promptly drilled a 3-pointer to push the Wolverines up 60-51 with 8:50 left.
“They got a lot of long rebounds,” McCaffery said. “They’re going to shoot a ton of 3s, and we didn’t do a good enough job in that area.”
2. Benched. Iowa boasts the Big Ten’s deepest roster with at least nine players logging significant minutes. Entering Wednesday’s game, Iowa’s reserves averaged 25 points a game in Big Ten play and had a whopping 43 against Minnesota. Iowa’s seasonal low was 18 points twice — Iowa State, Wisconsin — and both were defeats.
Wednesday, the bench scored just eight points on 4-of-13 shooting. They had more turnovers (five) than baskets (four). They also struggled to defend Michigan in a key first-half stretch.
When three Iowa starters left the game with 14:23 left in the first half, the Hawkeyes led 12-9. By the time McCaffery inserted his regular starters, Michigan had taken a 23-21 lead. The reserves had solid moments, but allowed scores on three consecutive possessions — a Jordan Morgan dunk, a Stauskas 3-pointer, a Robinson basket — that forced McCaffery to bring his starters back in.
“The bench was a little bit gun-shy,” McCaffery said. “That’s not typically what those guys are. They come in and play with a reckless abandon; that is necessary for our team. That’s how I want them to play, for our team. I want them to feel free to shoot the ball, any one of them can shoot the ball.
“We got a little tentative I thought and made a couple mistakes and then I felt the momentum was really shifting, and I went back with my starters a little quicker than I normally would.”
Junior guard Josh Oglesby, a key contributor in Iowa’s 21-point win against Minnesota on Sunday, was held to just one basket in 15 minutes. He shot just one 3-pointer and passed up a good look midway through the second half. Oglesby instead dished to Aaron White, who missed an open 3-point attempt.
When asked if Oglesby now has become a marked man because of his shooting ability, McCaffery said, “That’s going to be pretty much every game.”
“You can play off of that because you have more space,” McCaffery said. “I think the one time he had a clean look at a 3, they flew at him and he makes the extra pass to Whitey, who missed a shot out of the corner. The right basketball play was to throw it Whitey there and that’s what he did. Despite how well he’s playing, he’s not going to hunt shots.”
3. Relax. I know people are prone to overreaction these days, but some of the feedback Wednesday was a little surprising. Iowa is 15-4 overall and lost at a team that is 6-0 in Big Ten play and competed for the NCAA championship a year ago. It’s hardly time to panic.
Iowa is 1-4 against teams currently ranked in the top 25. But none of those games took place at Carver-Hawkeye Arena, where Iowa has won 20 straight. The comments I’ve seen and heard about the team’s mental toughness are out of date. Iowa proved its mettle a few times early in victories against Xavier and Notre Dame, then validated it with comeback wins against Ohio State and Minnesota. Wednesday’s loss was about execution, possibly effort and certainly efficiency. It’s not because Iowa is overrated or lacks toughness. Iowa played a bad game against a good opponent and lost. It happens in basketball.
Indiana won the outright Big Ten title last year with a 14-4 record. Michigan finished 12-6 in league play, then advanced to the national title game. Iowa has played three of the four preseason heavyweights on the road this year. The Hawkeyes beat a suddenly downtrodden Ohio State by 10, lost at Wisconsin in strange circumstances by four points and were stopped by Michigan at home by eight. All three must play in Iowa City before sellout crowds.
Good teams lose on the road all the time. If you don’t believe me, just watch what happens when Iowa’s Big Ten competitors come to Carver-Hawkeye Arena the rest of this winter.
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