Iowa men's basketball wins rematch at Michigan, 82-71, for fifth consecutive win
A few weeks ago, Iowa men's basketball had a sour taste in their mouths courtesy of the Michigan Wolverines. On Feb. 17, Michigan handed Iowa a 84-79 loss in Iowa City. Since then, Iowa's won four games in a row and traveled to Ann Arbor, Michigan hoping to return the favor.
The stakes were high: Iowa needed a win to stay among the Big Ten's top four teams and Michigan, one of the 'Last 4 In' according to NCAA Tournament projections, desperately needed a marquee win on their senior night. In a game both teams had to win, Iowa made the necessary winning plays down the stretch and enacted their revenge.
Iowa defeated Michigan 82-71 for their fifth consecutive win and their eighth win in nine games. With the win, Iowa improves to 22-8 overall and 12-7 in Big Ten play while Michigan falls to 16-13 overall and 10-9 in the Big Ten.
From the opening tip, it was clear that it was going to be one of those nights for Iowa sophomore Keegan Murray. The Big Ten and National Player of the Year candidate connected on his first three attempts, including two three-pointers and halfway through the first half was outscoring the Wolverines by himself with a 13-9 advantage.
But he wasn't alone in contributions. Kris Murray provided an immediate spark off the bench. After going scoreless in the first half of Iowa's last four games, Kris scored eight first-half points along with three rebounds. And the Hawkeyes starting backcourt of Jordan Bohannon and Tony Perkins combined for 16 first-half points. Iowa's 47 first-half points is an impressive mark but defensively is where they made their mark on the first half.
One of the biggest questions for Iowa was how would they contain Michigan's front court of Hunter Dickinson and Moussa Diabate, who combined for 42 points and 17 rebounds in the first matchup. Keegan Murray handled the Diabate assignment while starting center Filip Rebraca battled with Dickinson.
The result: Diabate was held scoreless in the first half while Dickinson only managed 6 points on 2-for-6 shooting. Overall, Iowa limited Michigan to 33% shooting in the first half. Their overall 50% shooting for the game more closely resembles the first game, but Iowa's commanding double-digit lead was never in doubt in the second half.
As expected, Michigan made runs in the second half but Iowa answered each time. The Wolverines opened the second half on a 6-2 run and seemed to be gaining momentum before back-to-back Bohannon three pointers silenced the crowd. With nine minutes to play, Michigan cut their deficit to 12 points but eight straight Keegan Murray points kept their to-be rally at bay and preserved the Hawkeyes lead.
Then, with two minutes to play and Michigan as close as seven points, thee consecutive stops by Iowa and back-to-back baskets by Kris Murray salted the game away.
Keegan finished with 23 points, seven rebounds and Kris with 19 points and six rebounds in a sensational primetime television performance.
Iowa's Thursday night win not only gave them their second Quad 1 win of the year but it proved their February run was no fluke, winning on the road against a quality foe with everything to play for.
There's only one obstacle left in Iowa's quest for a double-bye in the Big Ten tournament: a road win at No. 20 Illinois on Sunday.
Kennington Lloyd Smith III covers Iowa Hawkeyes football and men's basketball for the Des Moines Register. You can connect with Kennington on Twitter @SkinnyKenny_ or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.