His team took a step backward vs. Michigan, the Iowa coach admits.
IOWA CITY, Ia. — Time after time Tuesday, Iowa basketball players were left chasing air while Michigan players lined up 3-pointers.
The Wolverines made 11 of them, answering any small run that Iowa could muster to frustrate the Hawkeyes into a 75-68 defeat before an impatient crowd announced at 11,363 at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
The desultory loss snapped a five-game win streak for Iowa overall and a five-game run of success against Michigan.
More importantly, it dropped the Hawkeyes (9-7) to 0-3 in Big Ten Conference play, with two of the losses coming at home.
Tuesday's setback came because Iowa couldn't guard the perimeter and failed to establish offense from anyone other than Tyler Cook.
"It wasn't just our defense. It certainly appeared that way. Our offense was sputtering," Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said of a 25-6 Michigan first-half run that proved too much to overcome. "We were scrambling a lot as a result of our poor offense. And you really have to lock in because they have a lot of really good players. They spread you out.
"If you break down in one area, they're going to find somebody. We had times where we helped when we shouldn't have. We got caught staring a few times."
When the Hawkeyes did summon a burst of energy, they appeared to grow weary chasing a patient Michigan offense around, resulting in too many open shots.
Iowa trailed by double digits for most of the game after the Wolverines (13-3, 2-1) made eight of their first 11 3-pointers.
"Our goal coming in was not to have fake help, and we did that a couple times when we were bluffing at guys that we shouldn't have been bluffing at because we just wanted to make them hit tough layups," Iowa guard Jordan Bohannon said. "They do a really good job of finding their shooters. And they just really picked us apart and they hit a lot of open 3s that they shouldn't have had."
Iowa point guard points blame at himself for loss to Michigan
Cook led the Hawkeyes with 28 points. Bohannon added 12, but had just one late 3-pointer in the second half. None of their teammates had more than six points.
McCaffery felt his team became too content to feed the ball to Cook and then watch him go to work. Cook and Bohannon took 26 of Iowa's 52 shot attempts. The other three starters — Jack Nunge, Nicholas Baer and Isaiah Moss — attempted only eight field goals.
Michigan's bench was even better than the starters, outscoring Iowa 37-17.
Cook said he could sense early that Iowa was just going through the motions and not playing with the necessary intensity to beat a Big Ten opponent.
"I just don't think our energy and our effort was there early. I think that affects multiple parts of the game, offensively and defensively," Cook said. "As a unit, our mindset wasn't there to come out and take the game. We were just out there trying to play it.
"I'm not inside of every guy's head, individually. But as a unit, we've got to be better. And if we see guys that aren't there energy-wise, then we've got to pick guys up."
The sophomore forward on a lack of passion that proved to be the downfall vs. Michigan
Michigan had four players in double figures and six who made at least one 3-pointer. The visitors seemed to take turns in sinking back-breaking jump shots whenever Iowa showed a little life.
Iowa cut the deficit to single digits on five occasions in the second half, but never got closer than seven points.
Cook got inside for a pair of layups to trim the lead to 62-54 with 8:22 left, prompting Michigan coach John Beilein to call a timeout. The Wolverines promptly went on a 9-0 run to put the game away.
"They made two easy shots; we missed them," Beilein said, telling his team: "Nothing's changed. Just play the way you are."
Michigan turned the ball over five times in the opening 4 minutes, but only five other times the rest of the game. Guards Muhammad Ali Abdur-Rahkman and Zavier Simpson scored 15 points apiece and combined for 13 assists with no turnovers.
Forward Isaiah Livers came off the bench to score 13 points, including all three of his 3-point attempts.
"It didn't surprise me. I knew he was capable of it, but he shot the hell out of the ball (Tuesday)," Cook said of Livers. "So I've got to give him credit. He came here to play."
Iowa did not, at least until the second half. That put the Hawkeyes in a hole against Michigan. It also put them in a deep hole in the Big Ten race.
The Hawkeyes next host Ohio State at 6 p.m. Thursday.