CHICAGO — Blowout winners in the Windy City one night. Blowout losers the next.
That was the Iowa basketball team's Big Ten Tournament experience, sent packing after two days by the team that owns this event. No. 11 Michigan scored at will against a leaky Hawkeye zone defense and frustrated Iowa's long-range shooters in a 74-53 quarterfinal victory Friday at the United Center.
The Wolverines have won nine straight Big Ten tourney games; they also bounced Iowa last season, although that game went to overtime.
Iowa was superb Thursday in dispatching Illinois 83-62. That put the Hawkeyes into a quarterfinal matchup for the first time in exactly six years.
But Michigan is not Illinois.
Iowa led for exactly 90 seconds Friday, never finding traction on offense or defense. The Wolverines happily avenged a 74-59 Feb. 1 loss to the Hawkeyes in Carver-Hawkeye Arena that marked their worst setback of the season.
Michigan junior point guard Zavier Simpson carved Iowa up, expertly picking apart a zone defense that had flummoxed the Wolverines in the first meeting. Simpson always seemed to find the right teammate in the right spot, dishing out 11 assists with a single turnover. When no one was open, he was happy to put the offense in his own hands, making all four of his field goals and scoring 10 points.
Iowa didn’t help its cause by closing out late too often on Michigan 3-point attempts. The Wolverines canned 7 of 16 in the first half, with many of the misses being clean looks. In the Feb. 1 loss, Michigan made only 8 of 33.
"We weren't as active in our zone as we were last time," Iowa sophomore Luka Garza said. "They were flashing guys in and out of the high post, overloading. That's nothing we haven't seen before. They did a great job executing, but I think it was more on us in terms of we weren't moving. We were hopping around a little bit, giving them open looks."
Garza was asked if Iowa ever made an adjustment to its defense.
"We weren't able to make a run back into the game, so obviously not," he said.
The third-seeded Wolverines (27-5) showed why they have won the past two Big Ten tournaments, leading 40-27 at intermission and then putting the hammer down once play resumed, leading by as much as 26 points.
Sixth-seeded Iowa (22-11) found success attacking Michigan’s interior but suddenly couldn’t hit from the perimeter, missing its first 12 3-point attempts one night after sinking 12 of 23 in a win over Illinois. The Hawkeyes finally found success from that distance when walk-on Nicolas Hobbs banked one in late. The Hawkeyes had made at least four 3-pointers in each previous game this season.
"It's tough," said Iowa freshman forward Joe Wieskamp, who was held to three points on 1 of 5 shooting. "Obviously, we played really well (Thursday), thought we had a little bit of momentum coming into this game. Came out a little flat. They took advantage of that."
Post players Tyler Cook and Garza led Iowa with 14 points each. The Hawkeyes enjoyed a 34-32 edge in points in the paint. They didn't enjoy much more Friday.
Senior forward Nicholas Baer, coming off a season-best 17 points against Illinois, failed to score Friday. Neither did point guard Jordan Bohannon, the Hawkeyes' top 3-point shooter. It was a night to forget for Iowa.
Michigan advances to face Minnesota at 2:30 p.m. Saturday in the semifinals.
Iowa returns home to find out its NCAA Tournament fate late Sunday afternoon. The Hawkeyes, who have lost five of their past six games, are likely to be an 8 or 9 seed, making that field for the first time in three seasons. They'll be happy not to see Michigan again.
"We're disappointed from our performance (Friday). It wasn't anything that we wanted coming in," Baer said. "But at the same time we're proud of the season we've had. We've got 22 wins. And a lot of times this time of year if you lose in the conference tournament, some teams, this is the end of their season.
"But for us this is just the beginning."