Turnover-prone Hawkeyes clinch sub-.500 regular season with loss at Michigan

Chad Leistikow
Hawk Central

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — An old wound resurfaced and a new one emerged Wednesday night for the struggling Iowa men’s basketball team.

The old: costly turnovers.

The new: a silent offense.

Michigan guard Charles Matthews (1) goes to the basket against Iowa's Isaiah Moss (4) at Crisler Center on Wednesday night.

Of course, those things go hand in hand. And that toxic combination led to a familiar outcome — a decisive road loss in the Big Ten Conference. This time, it was Michigan trouncing the visiting Hawkeyes 74-59 before an announced crowd of 10,173 at the Crisler Center.

No. 21 Michigan, rolling toward the NCAA Tournament, improved to 21-7 overall and 10-5 in the Big Ten. Iowa dropped its fourth straight, the last three against ranked teams, to clinch coach Fran McCaffery's first losing regular season since his debut here, in 2010-11.

The stumbling Hawkeyes are 12-16, 3-12 with three games before the Big Ten Tournament in New York City.

As far as starts go, Wednesday’s couldn’t have been much better for Iowa.

The Hawkeyes came out in a 3-2 zone and stifled Michigan’s offense; the Wolverines drew blanks on their first four possessions, while Iowa grasped a quick 7-0 lead.

But after Isaiah Moss’ 3-pointer put Iowa ahead 14-12, it was all Michigan.

The Hawkeyes — the Big Ten’s No. 3 scoring offense — mustered only 10 points in the final 13 minutes, 48 seconds of the first half.

Not to mention they literally threw this game away.

Iowa committed 12 turnovers in the first half alone, nine coming in the first 11:38.

“What they do, is they take those live-ball turnovers and turn them into points," McCaffery said afterward. "We’re up 7-0. Next thing you know, we’re down 13 (at halftime). You can’t turn it over in the middle of the floor against a team with this kind of speed and passes the ball this well."

The turnover number was staggering on two levels.

No. 1, despite a poor start to the season in the turnover category, Iowa had been quite protective of the basketball in its past seven games. it had averaged just 10.3 turnovers in that span — with game totals (in order) of 11, 11, 9, 8, 13, 8 and 12.

No. 2, Michigan had seven combined steals in its previous three games (including one that went overtime); in the first half alone, it swiped 10 steals. 

The Wolverines shot only 41.8 percent for the game, but they scored 20 points (to Iowa's 10) off turnovers.

For the game, Iowa finished with 16 turnovers; Michigan set a new season high with 13 steals.

Creating those 13-point halftime holes are hard to dig out of.

Iowa tried, though.

Freshman center Luke Garza scored 12 of his team-high 22 points (10-for-16 shooting) in the first 9:01 of the second half. After a few mid-range shots from Jordan Bohannon, Michigan’s lead was down to 46-38.

But, as has been the Hawkeyes' road trend, things can unravel quickly. And they did Wednesday, with back-to-back 3s from Duncan Robinson pushing the Wolverines to a 58-42 edge that caused McCaffery to call his first timeout of the game — with 9:59 to go.

That was pretty much it.

“We kept fighting. But we made too many mistakes at certain points," said Garza, who set a personal high in scoring for a Big Ten game. "Our defensive intensity was kind of spotty tonight. That’s what the coaches were talking about (afterward) in the locker room.”

The 3-ball hurt Iowa. Michigan made 12 of them on a free-wheeling 33 attempts, including Robinson's 6-for-8 night for a team-high 18 points.

Moss (12 points) and Tyler Cook (10 points, eight rebounds) joined Garza in double figures. Bohannon finished with seven points and five assists with no turnovers.