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Kriener's big 3-pointer keys Iowa win over Michigan, symbolizes Hawkeye season

Mark Emmert
Hawk Central

IOWA CITY, Ia. — The funny thing about Ryan Kriener’s not-a-care-in-the-world 3-pointer late in Iowa’s win over Michigan on Friday was how little thought he put into it.

Hawkeyes coach Fran McCaffery said the Kriener triple was the biggest shot in a game full of them. He praised the senior’s cerebral approach to the sport.

Kriener chuckled afterward when told what his coach said.

“I actually didn’t know the situation. I just felt in rhythm, shot it. So I’m glad it went in,” Kriener said. “That’s kind of something I’ve been about this last year, part of last year, is just don’t be scared of the moment. Rise to the occasion. It’s my last year, so I might as well make the most of it.”

Iowa forward Ryan Kriener (15) celebrates a basket against Michigan during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Friday, Jan. 17, 2020, in Iowa City, Iowa. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette via AP)

Kriener’s coldblooded shot, after the Wolverines had cut the Hawkeye lead to a single point at Carver-Hawkeye Arena, summed up what this team has been about this season. The adversity keeps mounting. The Hawkeyes keep responding.

On Friday, that led to a 90-83 victory before a crowd announced at 14,136 that had braved treacherous roadways to cheer on the No. 24 team in the nation.

Kriener rewarded them with 14 points, including that 3-pointer with 3 minutes and 5 seconds remaining that kept No. 20 Michigan (11-6, 2-4 Big Ten Conference) at bay.

“He shoots that a million times in practice and it goes in most of the time,” Iowa center Luka Garza said of Kriener’s eighth made 3-pointer of the season. “So when he shoots that shot, I’m really confident it’s going in.”

Garza scored 33 points and hit some big shots of his own after the Wolverines took a 74-68 lead. Freshman guard CJ Fredrick tied a career-high with 21 points, including the 3-pointer that put Iowa ahead for good with 5:26 left.

It was an impressive win for Iowa (13-5, 4-3), which began a stretch of three consecutive home games by avenging a 103-91 loss at Michigan on Dec. 6. The Hawkeyes have won seven in a row at Carver-Hawkeye.

Garza dares Wolverines to foul him, and they oblige

Garza drew 12 of Michigan’s 23 fouls. He made 11 of 13 free throws. He put every Michigan post player in foul trouble. He loved every second of it.

“When you’re going at those guys and getting them all frustrated and getting them on the bench, it’s huge,” said Garza, the leading scorer in the Big Ten.

“Once a guy gets four fouls, he’s not going to be as aggressive the next time I get the ball on the block.”

Garza scored a career-high 44 points in Iowa’s loss at Michigan last month. The Wolverines started Friday’s game again trying to guard Garza with a single defender. By halftime, he had 18 points and Iowa led 47-43.

At the outset of the second half, the physicality changed dramatically. The Wolverines started sending a second defender at Garza. They tried to muscle him out of his position near the basket.

Garza drew five fouls in the opening 4 minutes of the half.

“I was trying to put them in tough positions where they either were going to foul me or let me lay it up,” he said.

“My body feels like it was a little bit more than 12 fouls.”

It was a season-high for Garza when it came to hearing official’s whistles go his way. His previous best? When he drew 11 at Michigan.

Apparently, the Wolverines just can’t handle Garza.

Iowa owns big edge at free-throw line

The Hawkeyes had their best game of the season at the free-throw line, sinking 27 of 30. Michigan, which attempted 34 free throws in its win over Iowa, made only 4 of 5 in the rematch.

That was a point of contention for Wolverines coach Juwan Howard, who was whistled for a technical foul after his center Jon Teske picked up one of his four infractions while trying to contain Garza.

“It is very frustrating,” Howard said. “I was very upset.”

Michigan attempted 34 3-point shots and connected on only 11. But the Wolverines were 23-for-34 inside the arc. Keeping them off the free-throw line was the key to Iowa’s win. And it was no accident.

“That was a point of emphasis,” Kriener said. “You can’t foul a team that shoots it that well. When they’re making 3s, when they’re getting to the bucket, you can’t add free throws to it.”

Iowa spent much of the game in a zone defense, which minimized fouls. Sophomore guard Joe Wieskamp, who scored 20 points, said the Hawkeyes made it a point to not let any individual defender end up in a bad spot where he would be forced to foul.

“They’re a really good offensive team. They spread the floor very well,” Wieskamp said. “We had to defend five as one out there. We couldn’t depend on one or two guys to defend all their action. It was all of us out there.”

Connor McCaffery helps Hawkeyes control the glass

Connor McCaffery didn’t score a point but had a big impact on Iowa’s victory. The 6-foot-5 sophomore started out playing power forward and finished the game at point guard. In between, he played some shooting guard.

McCaffery had a career-high 13 rebounds. He added five assists. Afterward, he was compared to former NBA star Dennis Rodman, an extraordinary rebounder.

“I’ll take that,” McCaffery said with a laugh. “I’ll do what I’ve got to do. I didn’t really know how many rebounds I had, and then I looked at the stat sheet. I was just trying to be involved in a lot of things, just trying to stay physical.”

McCaffery had four of Iowa’s first five rebounds, all on the defensive end. At Michigan, the Hawkeyes allowed 12 offensive rebounds. On Friday, they cut that number in half. Much of that was McCaffery’s doing. He also led Iowa with seven rebounds in Tuesday’s win at Northwestern.

“I think it’s just Big Ten play. Every team being so physical, you need to get in there and mix it up,” McCaffery said. “Guards need to rebound, because those bigs are fighting. And their guards need to get back. Otherwise we’re going to run in transition. So somebody’s got to get in there and clean it up.

“Rebounding, finishing off possessions, is so big. You can’t give teams like Michigan second shots. You just can’t. You’re not going to win.”

McCaffery also had four of Iowa’s nine offensive rebounds. The Hawkeyes had a 38-25 edge on the glass. There’s more to basketball than scoring points. McCaffery is your proof.

Iowa next hosts Rutgers (13-4, 4-2) on Wednesday.

Mark Emmert covers the Iowa Hawkeyes for the Register. Reach him at memmert@registermedia.com or 319-339-7367. Follow him on Twitter at @MarkEmmert.