The Breakdown: Iowa No Match for Wolverines

March 16, 2019

Written by Rob Howe

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CHICAGO – Michigan played well. Iowa played poorly. The result was what you would expect.

The 10th-ranked Wolverines rolled to a 74-53 victory Friday night in the quarterfinals of the Big Ten Tournament here at the United Center. It was as simple as the better team winning.

Michigan improved to 27-5, avenging an earlier-season loss at Iowa. The Hawkeyes fell to 22-11 and now wait for a middling seed in the NCAA Tournament.

There’s no denying they did well in turning around a miserable 14-19 experience last year, but their ending proved less than ideal. After routing 11th-seeded Illinois Thursday night, the Wolverines handed them their fifth loss in the final six games.

Iowa lacked effort for much of its late-season swoon, but that was not the case in its last three contests. It played hard Friday, but not well, similar to when it blew an 16-point lead in losing at Nebraska on Sunday.

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That’s concerning for the Hawkeyes, who likely will be facing tough opponents from the jump in the Big Dance. Struggling Illinois will not being waiting for them.

The NCAA Tournament has a way of authoring cinderella stories, but those teams perform well. Can Iowa put a string of good games together when it hasn’t done so since early February? It has plenty of room for growth after what we witnessed Friday.

Coach Fran McCaffery and the players remained positive despite Friday’s disappointing loss. They talked about the gains made during the last year.

“We played (the Wolverines last month) and executed on both ends of the floor. They were better tonight in pretty much all phases of the game,” McCaffery said. “So, you learn from that. That team has a chance to go a long way and we beat them once and I think that says a lot about our ability to potentially go a long way once we start playing next week.”

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Many of the game’s aspects that went well for Iowa against Illinois regressed against the Wolverines. After making 12 of 23 three-point attempts Thursday, the Hawkeyes missed their first 16 tries versus Michigan before walk-on Nicolas Hobbs made their only triple, a bank shot, in the closing minutes.

And in what has become a pattern this season, when Iowa missed shots, it allowed it to affect their play on the other end. Michigan carved up every defense it saw after struggling against them earlier this year.

“Yeah, I think that’s something that every player needs to work on,” freshman Joe Wieskamp said. “If shots aren’t falling for you, you still have to lock in defensively and stay focused on our defensive principles. We can’t let our offense affect our defense.”

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Starting point guard Jordan Bohannon, who is nursing a bad hip, looked slowed in playing back to back nights. He went scoreless for just the second time this season (Alabama State, Nov. 21).

Tyler Cook and Luka Garza each scored 14 points. They were the only Hawkeyes to reach double figures.

While Iowa looked connected offensively against the Illini, dishing out 25 assists on 31 baskets, including 16 against one turnover in the second half, it managed just 10 assists and turned the ball over 11 times against Michigan. Meanwhile the Wolverines collected 25 assists against just seven assists.

“I didn’t think we did the best job of executing the game plan, but at the same time, I’m still really proud of my teammates. I thought we did a nice job of battling back throughout this season. We’ve had some adversity, had a few injuries, but we always came back and always responded,” senior Nicholas Baer said.

“Im confident this group will regroup and get ready for the NCAA Tournament.”

The Hawkeyes will find out their first-round matchup and destination on Sunday when the brackets are released.

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