IOWA CITY — Bubbling with confidence after a win over No. 3 Maryland on Tuesday, the Michigan basketball team traveled to Iowa for what very well could be its toughest game of the year on Sunday.
Even without leading scorer and senior guard Caris LeVert, the Wolverines (3-2 Big Ten, 13-5 overall) stood tall against the 16th-ranked Hawkeyes. But battling one of the nation’s best defenses, Michigan faltered in the second half and left with a 82-71 loss.
MVP: Jared Uthoff. Iowa looks like the best team in the Big Ten, and Uthoff very well could be the conference’s best player. Iowa’s senior forward dominated the floor Sunday, scoring 20 points on 18 shots and carrying the brunt of Iowa’s workload throughout the entire game.
Key Stat: Michigan had an uncharacteristic 13 turnovers Sunday, giving the ball away on 21% of its offensive possessions. Iowa outscored Michigan 16-6 in points off of turnovers and giveaways seemed to ruin Michigan momentum time-and-again leading to easy baskets on the other end of the floor.
While the Wolverines and Hawkeyes were relatively even statistically, turnovers proved to be the dagger in Michigan’s upset hopes.
It was over when: Michigan was able to survive an 11-0 deficit to start the game and a 13-5 toward the end of the first half. But when the Hawkeyes outscored the Wolverines, 12-0 in the middle of the second half, Michigan buried itself in a hole it could not dig out of.
Aubrey Dawkins and Derrick Walton Jr. combined for three straight three-pointers to cut the Michigan defecit to six points twice in the final four minutes, but Peter Jok and Jarrod Uthoff answered. Uthoff had two free throws and an up-and-under layup and Jok hit a back-breaking three-pointer in the corner to put the Wolverines away.
Room for Improvement: Defense. Michigan’s offense sputtered in the loss, but 1.14 points per possession on the road with Caris LeVert is a strong performance. The Wolverines allowed 1.31 points per trip to the Hawkeyes, marking their worst defensive performance of the season.