After a few early hiccups, Michigan coasted to a win over Iowa in what was its easiest game left on the regular season schedule. The Wolverines won with defense yet again, holding Iowa to 0.89 points per possession; Iowa’s profile is unique, as the Hawkeyes play very fast, crash the glass, and run their offense through a deep rotation of big men. Freshman center Luka Garza scored 22 points for Iowa, but the rest of the Hawkeyes struggled to varying degrees. Michigan’s two centers, Moritz Wagner and Jon Teske, had a combined seven steals.
Michigan’s two seniors led the team, with each scoring 18 points: Duncan Robinson made six three-pointers - including three in a row from the same spot of the floor in quick succession; Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman contributed seven assists without turning the ball over in addition to his scoring. Michigan initially struggled to get good looks against Iowa’s flimsy 2-3 zone - their first three possessions resulted a bad miss on a long two, a shot clock violation, and a live ball turnover - but eventually the Wolverines were able to create plenty of open shots.
After Iowa’s 9-2 run to open the game, Michigan outscored them 35-15 over the rest of the first half. Zavier Simpson was quiet and held scoreless on the night (though he had some terrific passes in the second half), so Jaaron Simmons provided a nice spark off the bench and finished with 5 points and 4 assists in his 12 minutes of playing time, the most he’s had since mid-December. That box score undersells his impact somewhat, as Simmons was a key part in turning the game into a track meet.
Michigan pushed the ball in transition frequently in the first half, and aside from some Charles Matthews misadventures (he finished with 10 points on 18 shot equivalents), the Wolverines were able to fly by the Iowa defense, even off of defensive rebounds. On one play, Teske grabbed the ball, and in one motion, turned and heaved the ball three quarters of the court to Jordan Poole, who hit both free throws after being fouled. Michigan’s teams tend to play at a slow pace, but John Beilein surely noticed how awful the Hawkeyes were at getting back after an empty possession. Abdur-Rahkman benefitted the most, getting layups and facilitating in the open floor.
After halftime, the Wolverine defense faltered a bit. They’d held Iowa to 0.66 points per possession in the first half; Robinson was able to stifle Tyler Cook, a powerful forward, and Iowa turned the ball over 12 times. After halftime, they scored efficiently - Garza hit several short corner jump shots from both sides of the floor - but Michigan was able to keep pace and Robinson’s three point barrage gave Michigan a comfortable lead that was sustained through the rest of the game. He was Michigan’s best player, and finished at a team-high +19.
Iowa eventually tried throwing a 1-3-1 and man-to-man looks at Michigan, but they didn’t really work either. Aside from Matthews, Michigan had an eFG% of 59% and they finished with 1.11 points per possession on the game. The Wolverines had more than twice as many offensive rebounds as Iowa did - even though the Hawkeyes entered the game as the top offensive rebounding team in the conference. Despite a poor game from Matthews, quiet performances from Isaiah Livers (who returned from injury), Simpson, and Poole, Michigan won comfortably. Robinson, Rahkman, and Wagner - who had some nice takes against Garza and finished with 14 points - scored nine fewer than Iowa’s entire team. Simmons and Teske played well.
Michigan’s now 21-7 (10-5) and probably one win away from locking up an NCAA Tournament game. The remaining three regular season contests are “Quadrant 1” or “Quadrant 2” games, meaning that their resume wouldn’t be negatively impacted much by losses. To the contrary, a home game against Ohio State and trips to Penn State and Maryland provide opportunities to inch up the seed line. The next game against the Buckeyes - perhaps the biggest surprise in all of college basketball - is a perfect opportunity to unseat them from their perch alone in first place in the Big Ten.
Box Score After the JUMP