No. 3 Michigan 79, No. 12 Iowa 57: Here's what we learned
ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Thursday was another lost opportunity for the Iowa men's basketball team against a top-flight opponent.
Michigan made the Hawkeyes look lost in the second half of a 79-57 victory at the Crisler Center. It was the most lopsided loss of the season for the No. 12 Hawkeyes (17-7, 11-6 Big Ten Conference), who were able to hang with the Wolverines for a little more than a half despite a subpar offensive showing.
But when the third-ranked Wolverines (17-1, 12-1) got into gear, Iowa was quickly in the rear-view mirror.
Iowa center Luka Garza struggled to get his shot to fall all game, finishing 6-for-19 from the field for a team-high 16 points. The entire Hawkeye offense was bogged down by an aggressive Michigan defense, ending up with just four assists. Point guard Jordan Bohannon, who needed three assists to set the all-time program record, was held without one for the first time this season.
The defense survived a first-half of poor rebounding by at least forcing some missed Michigan shots. But that unraveled in the second half, when the Wolverines shot 19 of 35 from the floor (54.3%).
To compound matters, two Hawkeye mainstays limped off the court and didn't return to action.
The Hawkeyes had previously fallen to No. 1 Gonzaga, No. 5 Illinois and No. 4 Ohio State in search of a win that would validate their belief that this is a championship-caliber team. A rematch with the Buckeyes awaits Sunday, three dreary days away for an Iowa squad that left the Crisler Center angry over a poor performance and the end of its four-game winning streak.
Here's what we learned.
Hawkeyes taken out of offensive rhythm
Michigan is a terrific defensive team, and the plan was obvious from the outset: Make the Hawkeyes create offense off the dribble.
The Wolverines were aggressive about face-guarding Hawkeye point guard Jordan Bohannon to keep the ball out of his hands. They didn’t want wing players Joe Wieskamp or CJ Fredrick to be comfortable at the arc. And that led to one of the oddest statistics you’ll ever see from Iowa’s offense: Only one first-half assist on 12 made baskets.
The halfcourt offense became a grind, and the Hawkeyes did have to try to force their way into the paint to get their best shots. Fredrick had a couple of early smart drives that he got to fall. Wieskamp capitalized on one aggressive foray to the basket. Bohannon did bury a pair of 3-pointers, but both were heavily contested.
Iowa scored 14 of its first 17 points in the paint and trailed 32-29 at halftime.
Luka Garza has active hands on defense
Iowa’s defense was up to the task in the first half to keep Michigan frustrated as well. The Wolverines made just 14 of 35 shots in the opening 20 minutes (40%). Garza was able to score only seven points, but he had three steals and a blocked shot to help protect the interior.
The biggest issue for Iowa was that Michigan rebounded 10 of its 21 missed shots, getting nine crucial points off of them. That’s an area the Hawkeyes have been focusing on, but was a weakness in the early going.
Jack Nunge limps off early
Iowa reserve center Jack Nunge played only a minute before bumping into the stanchion under his basket and falling heavily out of bounds. He grimaced and limped to the locker room, supported by a teammate and trainer Brad Floy.
Nunge did not return with what was called a right leg injury. He returned to the bench in the second half aided by a pair of crutches. He missed most of last season after ACL surgery on his right knee.
At 6-foot-11, Nunge is an active defender and excellent offensive rebounder. His absence would leave a big void for Iowa heading into March, if the injury is serious.
Another injury, and an ineffective lineup
Connor McCaffery fell heavily after a Michigan 3-pointer early in the second half, and the junior forward did not return to the lineup, either, although he jogged back to the bench shortly after, trying to stretch out his leg. Down two of his top eight players, Iowa coach Fran McCaffery resorted to one second-half lineup that included freshmen Patrick McCaffery, Ahron Ulis and Keegan Murray.
Only Murray looked like he belonged in a game of this magnitude, and Michigan quickly doubled its lead from seven to 14 points, essentially putting Iowa away. It's still an open question whether the Hawkeyes have the talent to contend with the top teams in the nation, but it's certainly true that they won't go far if they have to rely heavily on rookies.
Mark Emmert covers the Iowa Hawkeyes for the Register. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 319-339-7367. Follow him on Twitter at @MarkEmmert.