Iowa basketball's furious rally falls short in deflating home loss to Michigan

Chad Leistikow
Hawk Central

IOWA CITY — Two of the Big Ten Conference’s best offenses and two of the worst defenses clashed Thursday at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. The matchup between Iowa and visiting Michigan was bound to create fireworks.

On this night, the Wolverines proved more explosive and unleashed relentless second-half flurry. They scored on 15 of their first 20 possessions of the second half to take a double-digit lead and hung on to hand Iowa a deflating 84-79 loss.

Michigan freshman Moussa Diabate had a career night. The long 6-foot-11 forward, who averages 8.7 points per game, registered a career-high 28 points on 12-of-15 shooting to go with eight rebounds. His previous high was 15 points.

“You can’t let him go 12-for-15. He’s a (future) pro," Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said. "But you can’t let him go 12-for-15.”

Meantime, Iowa star Keegan Murray had to exit the game twice in the second half with cramping issues. As the Big Ten Conference’s leading scorer got attention from trainer Brad Floy, the Hawkeyes fell into a deeper hole. His brief absences were costly in what could be a crucial result come Selection Sunday for the NCAA Tournament.

“I don’t really cramp much at all. That was new," Murray said. "It was obviously difficult knowing that physically there were points I couldn’t go.”

Moussa Diabate had a career night for the Wolverines in a hotly contested game at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

After getting water and rest, Murray re-entered the game with Iowa trailing, 78-71, with 2:18 to go, and the Hawkeyes delivered two quick stops and buckets from Tony Perkins and Patrick McCaffery to get it down to 78-75 with 1:20 left.

After a couple Michigan free throws and a Murray dunk, it was 80-77 Michigan. 

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A blocked shot by Murray and official review gave the ball back to the Hawkeyes with 26.5 seconds left and a chance to tie, but Murray's top-of-the-key 3-pointer rimmed in-and-out. Devante' Jones sank one free throw at the other end with 11 seconds left.

Ahron Ulis' driving layup with 6.1 seconds to go made it 81-79.

Jones made one free throw at the other end, but Jordan Bohannon's desperation 3 — as he tried to draw a foul — misfired to seal the result. Two more three throws with 0.3 seconds left completed the final margin.

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Murray would finish the night with 23 points on 9-of-23 shooting and secure the program's sophomore single-season scoring record. He now has 560, topping the previous mark of 553 set by Chris Kingsbury in 33 games in 1994-95. Murray got there in his 24th game.

Patrick McCaffery scored 13 points, Filip Rebraca had 12 and Bohannon 11 for the Hawkeyes.

The battle of teams tied in the Big Ten standings fittingly was tied in the final seconds of the first half, 37-37. With 2 seconds remaining, Connor McCaffery — a former baseball outfielder — entered the game with the sole purpose of throwing a full-court pass, as he did three years ago this week at Rutgers for a thrilling walk-off 3-pointer by Joe Wieskamp. This time, Keegan Murray camped under the deep throw near the opposite baseline. With a smooth fadeaway, Murray swished a 17-footer to give Iowa a 39-37 halftime lead.

That unlikely play capped a back-and-forth first 20 minutes which saw Iowa get contributions from unlikely suspects. Seldom-used center Josh Ogundele was tapped to fill in for 4:21 and drew a charging call on Hunter Dickinson for the Michigan star center’s second foul. Ulis and Payton Sandfort came up with back-to-back buckets to give Iowa a 33-31 lead.

Michigan coach Juwan Howard was whistled for a technical foul by Donnie Eppley with 48 seconds left in the first half, and Jordan Bohannon canned both free throws for a 37-35 Hawkeye edge.

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The Hawkeyes committed an uncharacteristic seven turnovers in the first half, a rarity considering they lead the country in lowest turnover percentage. Meantime, the Wolverines were 15-of-22 from 2-point range in the first half but just 1-of 12 from 3, helping to offset the Iowa miscues. That set the stage for the decisive second half.

Iowa fell to 17-8 overall, 7-7 in Big Ten play. Michigan (14-10, 8-6) will host Iowa in a March 3 rematch at the Crisler Center. The Hawkeyes have a quick turnaround and face Ohio State on Saturday in Columbus. That game will tip off at 1:30 p.m. CT on Fox.