No. 25 Iowa gets tough with No. 5 Michigan and earns its 'signature' victory
IOWA CITY, Ia. — This was Iowa’s “signature” victory of the winter. Maybe of the past three winters.
You can write that in ink.
The No. 25 Hawkeyes didn’t just ride a hot shooting night or get some lucky bounces Friday. They manhandled mighty Michigan up and down the court to the amusement of a sellout crowd of 15,056 at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. They earned a 74-59 win the old-fashioned way — with grit, not polish.
“We knew this is a tough team. We knew they have that brand of basketball,” Iowa center Luka Garza said of the No. 5 Wolverines. “So we knew we needed to come out and be the tougher team for 40 minutes.”
And that’s what Iowa did, something no other basketball team in America has been able to accomplish against Michigan this winter. The Wolverines had lost once, at Wisconsin. But they had never been so thoroughly thrashed.
Iowa (17-5, 6-5) broke a two-game losing streak and re-entered the national conversation primarily by doing three things:
- Rebounding. The Hawkeyes grabbed 48 of them to Michigan’s 36. The Wolverines had only one offensive board in the first half, by which time they trailed 42-29. Iowa backup center Ryan Kriener had a career-high 10 rebounds to go along with 15 crucial points.
“That’s a great feeling. It was one of our game plans that they only get one shot,” Kriener said. “Once we were able to get (Michigan’s 7-foot-1 center Jon Teske) in foul trouble, he wasn’t on the floor. It was a lot easier to get those mismatches that we like.”
- Pounding the ball inside. Iowa doubled up Michigan in points in the paint, 40-20. Garza scored 19 points to lead the charge. Freshman forward Joe Wieskamp added 16, most of them on daring drives to the basket.
When Michigan cut Iowa’s lead to 54-49 midway through the second half, it was Garza and Wieskamp who restored order. Garza showed some finesse with a nifty move in the lane, then followed with a 3-pointer from the right wing. Wieskamp seized a pass that wasn’t quite on target, then charged inside for a layup while being fouled by Teske, switching hands in mid-air and welcoming the contact. Iowa’s lead never again was less than 11 points.
“I can’t always out-strong guys, especially guys like Teske,” Garza offered afterward, a slight grin on his face. “I’ve got to find ways to score and I’ve got to be a little slick with it.”
Wieskamp had scored only eight points in Iowa’s previous two games. He was frustrated by his lack of production and displeased that he wasn’t more active about getting his shots. The Wolverines felt the brunt of that.
“I missed that wide-open corner 3,” Wieskamp said of an errant shot attempt from 8 minutes earlier in the game. “So when I got the ball back in my hand, I was just going to be aggressive and try to get to the rim. I saw an opportunity and made it happen.”
That quote could sum up the entire Iowa effort Friday.
- Playing stingy defense. The Hawkeyes mainly used a zone, and Michigan wasn’t prepared for it. The Wolverines rarely see that, coach John Beilein said later. They made only 8-of-33 3-point attempts. Iowa’s 1-2-2 trapping press seemed to knock them off stride.
“Their length is good in their zone and they just did some things in their zone that made it tough for us,” Beilein said. “We didn’t get many good looks. Sometimes we didn’t position ourselves or have the patience to get good looks.”
Iowa’s press didn’t force many turnovers, only two in the first half and eight for the game. But it was disruptive nonetheless, particularly during a 21-2 scoring burst that turned the game in the Hawkeyes’ favor for good in the first half.
“I thought we would give them some trouble with it. The reason we had that first spurt, we went up six or seven in the first half, so that really got the crowd involved, got our guys going. And I think our offense, after that, came a little bit easier than it was coming before,” Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said.
“And it can do that. And sometimes there can be holes that they exploit and you've got to get out of it. But it was really good (Friday).”
Kriener said it was the kind of victory his class of juniors had been seeking for three years, joining wins over Oregon and Connecticut that the Hawkeyes earned in Madison Square Garden two months ago.
“This goes right up there with those,” he said.
There was one more piece of motivation for Iowa on Friday. Garza was open about it afterward, thinking back to an overtime loss to Michigan last March in the Big Ten Tournament.
“There’s some wins that mean a lot,” Garza said. “I think this is one of them, especially a team that ended our season last year. That’s something we all were thinking. To come out here and play as well as we did, (I’m) just proud of our team.”
Iowa next plays at Indiana on Thursday.