Leistikow: Hawkeyes earn Carver court storm with thrashing of No. 5 Michigan
IOWA CITY, Ia. — One by one, jubilant Iowa players forged through the mass of fans that had rushed the Carver-Hawkeye Arena floor.
They exchanged high fives, hugs, fist bumps, chest bumps, unwavering smiles. Junior center Ryan Kriener hoisted red-shirting freshman guard C.J. Fredrick on his shoulders.
Guard Jordan Bohannon nearly had his No. 3 jersey ripped off his back by two aggressive fans in the first Carver court-storm he’s experienced in his three-year career.
"I felt like a puppet out there,” Bohannon said.
Walk-on Austin Ash was given enough space on the packed floor to humor his teammates and fellow Iowa students with some dance moves.
With dance music booming over the PA system, it was a Friday-night party befitting of a frenzied scene at a Ped Mall bar. Only much bigger.
“It’s one thing I’ll remember for the rest of my life,” Bohannon said of the Hawkeyes’ 74-59 domination of fifth-ranked Michigan. “It was fun.”
The celebration extended to the locker room.
“A lot of hooting and hollering,” Kriener reported.
For a group that suffered through a 14-19 season a year ago, this win felt like a long time coming.
They earned the right to celebrate.
“As a coach, that's what it's all about,” said Fran McCaffery, businesslike as always in his responses but no doubt proud after seeing his team rebound from a two-game losing streak. “You want them to enjoy that kind of jubilation together, and then to see them celebrate in the locker room together.”
When Kriener — a big man with 10 career 3-pointers in 76 games — stepped back in the first half and swished one from long distance, you had a feeling this might be the Hawkeyes’ night.
That tied it at 17-17 and helped ignite an electric 11-0 flurry in less than 2 minutes.
When forward Joe Wieskamp pulled up from deep with the shot clock winding down ... and banked it off the glass and through the net, you had a feeling this could be the Hawkeyes’ night.
“God was on my side on that one,” the phenomenal freshman said of an unlikely 3-pointer that gave Iowa a commanding 38-24 lead.
And with Iowa trying to put this game away, Bohannon floated up an air ball that landed in the lap of Luka Garza, and he flung it in for a 70-56 lead — you knew it was the Hawkeyes’ night.
And what a big one it was.
This is probably the biggest win for the program since a bevy of heavyweight slayings in the 2015-16 season (including Michigan State and Purdue twice each) on the way to a No. 3 national ranking.
“This is one of my favorite team wins,” said Kriener, who logged his first career double-double with 15 points and a career-high 10 rebounds. “Because of the way we locked into the scouting report.”
Indeed, No. 25 Iowa was relentless with its defensive pressure. The Hawkeyes used their zone at a high percentage and almost exclusively in the second half. It caught Michigan coach John Beilein off guard, because normally his team annihilates zone defenses with his array of 3-point shooters.
But on this night, Iowa used its length in the backcourt to help limit Michigan to 8-for-33 shooting from 3.
Give McCaffery credit for finding guys that were making a difference on defense and sticking with them. His first two substitutions of the second half? Kriener for Garza, and Nicholas Baer for Tyler Cook.
Kriener was excellent in the post, collecting seven of Iowa’s 41 defensive rebounds. Baer was a difference-maker, poking away two blocks and grabbing six boards in 19 minutes. Maishe Dailey didn’t take a shot, but provided Iowa 12 solid defensive minutes.
And Wieskamp, with five steals to go with his 16 points and seven rebounds, was Iowa’s best player on both ends of the floor.
As Bohannon walked into the interview room afterward, he hollered of his young teammate, “That's a pro right there!”
This Hawkeye team, now 17-5 overall and 6-5 in Big Ten Conference play, showed on this Friday night that it’s a resilient bunch. Beilein called them a "great" team that's going to win a lot of games.
Michigan had won 34 of its last 36 games, including 18 of its last 19 against Big Ten competition.
This isn’t an easy team to beat, let alone dominate.
The Hawkeyes didn’t wilt as they did eight days earlier against mighty Michigan State. Kriener said McCaffery helped them maintain a laser focus by chopping the night into 10 four-minute games.
The Wolverines (20-2, 9-2) crept as close as five points, at 54-49, but the Hawkeyes were too determined on this night not to let one slip away.
"We knew that they were beatable," Wieskamp said. "We have the confidence going into every game that we can beat any team in front of us. We believe that we're just as good (as), if not better than, any team. It just depends on how we go out and play.
"The mindset all week is that we were going to win this game."
They sure did.
And with 40 terrific minutes of basketball, they made it a night to remember.
Hawkeyes columnist Chad Leistikow has covered sports for 24 years with The Des Moines Register, USA TODAY and Iowa City Press-Citizen. Follow @ChadLeistikow on Twitter.