Iowa out-dueled Michigan on Saturday afternoon, handing the Wolverines another loss at Carver-Hawkeye Arena where they haven’t won in six years
Michigan got a career performance out of DJ Wilson — 28 points, 14 rebounds and six assists — but it just couldn’t get enough stops or big shots down the stretch to escape Iowa City with a win.
The Wolverines trailed throughout much of the first half, failing to find any traction or consistency from three-point range, but managed to remain close. Trailing by just three at the break, Michigan was able to extend a modest lead in the second, leading by as many as seven points midway through the period. But Iowa fought back and was able to force the game into overtime where Big Ten Player of the Year candidate Peter Jok and freshman guard Jordan Bohannon were just too much for Michigan to handle down the stretch.
Michigan’s offense was very good despite some cold shooting early on. The Wolverines scored 1.17 points per possession, made 56% of their twos and hit 12 threes. That’s the kind of performance that should win you games 90% of the time, but the game isn’t play on one end of the floor. Michigan only turned the ball over on 11.3% of its possessions (it’s painful when you can remember every turnover, but it also means that you didn’t turn the ball over much), but it also couldn’t get to the free throw line.
There was a five or six minute span in the second half where everything was clicking for Michigan as it was grabbing defensive rebounds, pushing the tempo and finding open guys. The early penetration and kick game was great, but it was a fleeting moment and something that would be good to see more of going forward. Overall, the ball moved well (21 assists on 34 makes) and the offense did its job, the defense just couldn’t keep up.
The real story of this game is that Michigan’s defense wasn’t good enough to win a Big Ten game, let alone on the road. You can’t give up 1.22 points per possession and hope to beat people consistently. Iowa undoubtedly hit some very difficult contested shots, especially early on, but stops are the name of the game. We’ve spent weeks and months talking about Michigan improving defensively, but this wasn’t that. Michigan gave up 1.2 points per possession four times last year: vs. Xavier, vs. Michigan State, at Iowa and at Purdue — those games should all resonate as awful memories.
In the first half, the story line was Iowa’s hot shooting, but eventually Michigan seemed to wear down on the defensive glass. Iowa rebounded 36% of its misses and scored 15 second chance points (13 in the second half). Finishing those late defensive possessions not only would have resulted in more stops, it would have also give U-M’s offense better opportunities on the other end of the floor.
Michigan’s inability to close this game out — it led by 5 with 6:26 to play — is also troubling after the Virginia Tech debacle. Iowa made some big plays, but there were definite teaching moments down the stretch. Not getting a shot off at the end of regulation is inexcusable and the fact that DJ Wilson took Michigan’s last two three-point attempts, despite his hot start, is sub-optimal as well. Defensively, the inability to grab one or two more loose balls down the stretch or not try to cheat for a steal, might have made all the difference. Instead, Iowa hit the big shots and Michigan is 0-1 in league play.
One Big Ten road loss doesn’t ruin a season, but it’s tough to stomach the ones that are right there for the taking. There’s now significant pressure for Michigan to win its next two home games (Penn State and Maryland) before another top-100 road game at Illinois. The Illini, like Iowa, are ranked in the 70s and will be a tough out on the road, but that’s the kind of game that an NCAA Tournament team needs to win at least half the time.
- DJ Wilson: Wilson played a career game, finishing with 28 points on 11-of-18 (4-8 3pt) shooting with 14 rebounds and six assists. He provided early energy around the rim with a few putbacks, hit a mid-range jumper, then started knocking in threes. He carried Michigan throughout the entire first half. I do think that he fell in love with the three-point shot in the second (and overtime) a bit too much (and when he misses he misses way off), but he also passed the ball very well when Iowa went to its zone defense looks. Wilson isn’t going to give Michigan 28 and 14 every night, but he can play with that sort of energy (6 offensive rebounds) and will be one of Michigan’s most valuable players.
- Zak Irvin: Irvin finished with 12 points on 5-of-15 (2-of-6 3pt) shooting with 6 assists. He passed the ball very well in the ball screen game early, but started to force the issue late with a couple of costly turnovers. He also hit some big shots down the stretch that kept Michigan in it. I thought he had some good moments against Peter Jok defensively, but the Iowa senior is a tough cover. The one that will sting is trying to jump a pass late and missing, which led to Jok’s game-winning triple.
- Moritz Wagner: Wagner played another great game offensively, rolling to the hoop and even throwing down a big transition dunk. He scored on most of his post isos and played well defensively as well. A pair of late cheap fouls going for rebounds really cost him both in playing time and mindset, because he seemed to play a bit different after those fouls on both ends of the floor. Michigan would also probably like him to grab more than 2 defensive rebounds in 35 minutes.
- Duncan Robinson: Robinson gave Michigan a great 36 minute performance without great three-point shooting. He made three shots inside the arc, handed out three assists and grabbed four rebounds. He continues to outplay Abdur-Rahkman and the new versatility in his game is impressive. On the other hand, 3-of-9 three-point shooting is good but he used to be automatic. He’s getting wide open looks and if he can hit 4 or 5 of those 9 attempts, it’s a different game. Nicholas Baer gave Duncan all he could handle defensively, but I think that Robinson is learning how to use his hands more effectively to make up for his shortcomings on that side of the ball.
- Derrick Walton: Walton had some very good moments and some extremely frustrating moments. He finished the game with 13 points on 5-of-13 (3-8 3pt) shooting with 5 rebounds and three assists, but Michigan needs its senior point guard to be more consistent. To not get a shot off at the end of the game is frustrating (although I probably would have taken a timeout) and he had a few other giveaway possessions (missed front end, quick trigger NBA threes, turnover against the press) that Michigan just can’t afford. On the other hand, he did finally heat up from three and made a few big plays late to keep U-M in the game.
- Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman: Abdur-Rahkman picked up two early fouls and only played 8 minutes in the loss. Michigan needed Duncan Robinson’s shooting and Abdur-Rahkman didn’t do much to prove that he deserved a spot in the rotation when he was on the floor. Of course, his struggles cause additional problems down the line as Sean Lonergan saw some first half action over Ibi Watson.
- Mark Donnal: Donnal made a few nice plays in his 12 minutes, but he’s falling behind Wagner. He isn’t as efficient finishing around the basket and he struggled defensively against Tyler Cook in the second half.
- Xavier Simpson: Simpson’s first Big Ten pass was a turnover, but he made up for it with a steal on the other end. He’s limited offensively, but his active hands caused problems defensively.