Three bench players led Michigan to its first win at Iowa since 2011.
Zavier Simpson, Isaiah Livers and Jon Teske combined to score 34 points with an 82.5 effective field goal percentage in 83 minutes on Tuesday night. The three starters who they replaced scored just 9 points with a 31.8 effective field goal percentage in 37 minutes.
Iowa plays its bench more minutes than any team in the Big Ten, but Michigan’s bench outscored the Hawkeyes 37-17 in the 75-68 victory.
The Wolverines rode a hot shooting first half to an 18-point lead and were able to answer every Iowa run in the second half, putting to bed any lingering demons from the December collapse in Columbus.
Michigan’s offense scored 1.14 points per possession, but that number would have been much higher if the stall offense late in the game didn’t go scoreless for five straight minutes.
The 3-point shot was falling — 11-of-25 for the night including 8-of-15 shooting in the first half — and that opened things up for the rest of the offense. The Wolverines were 17-of-32 inside the arc (53%) and were able to create timely baskets at the rim when the game dictated. Michigan also kept up with its new trend of being more aggressive in transition — a timely move against an Iowa team that not only took a lot of quick shots but didn’t do a great job of getting back on defense.
Tyler Cook scored 28 points on 15 shots for Iowa, but his teammates only managed 40 points on 15-of-37 shooting, Michigan doubled Cook early in the game, but opted to play him straight up throughout the most of the second half. They couldn’t manage him, but his baskets were still only worth 2 points while Michigan outscored the Hawkeyes by 15 points from 3-point range.
Cook played 34 minutes and used 36% of Iowa’s offensive possessions, but Iowa fans are probably asking how the talented big man didn’t get more shots in a game where he was so effective.
Iowa shot 51% on twos and 40% on threes for a 54% eFG%, but Michigan deserves credit for limiting limiting second chances. The Hawkeyes entered the game as a top-50 offensive rebounding team nationally, but only rebounded 23% of their misses and scored just 2 second chance points. I questioned how legitimate Michigan’s defensive rebounding numbers were in non-conference play — the Wolverines are ranked 13th nationally in defensive rebounding percentage — but this was an impressive road rebounding performance that backs up those early returns.
Michigan has won six in a row and is playing its best basketball of the season despite Moritz Wagner still working through an injury. Next up is a home tilt with Illinois before a pair of games against the conference’s best teams: Purdue at home and a trip to East Lansing.
- Isaiah Livers: This is the Isaiah Livers we’ve been waiting to see. He played the best game of his young career and was an obscene +23 during the 27 minutes that he was on the floor. Livers scored 13 points on 5-of-6 shooting (3-of-3 from distance), grabbed two rebounds, two steals and handed out three assists. He provided energy at the spot and his 3-pointers were high leverage corner triples that changed the momentum of the game. His defense was as solid as it has been all year and he also moved the ball very well including a great kick out from the middle of Iowa’s 2-3 zone. I’ve been asked the question “why isn’t Livers playing more minutes” quite a bit and the answer has been that he hasn’t played all that well (especially against high-major opponents). Michigan wants and needs him to fill that DJ Wilson-type of role, but he hasn’t been able to until tonight. If he can play remotely close to this level consistently then he’s going to be playing a lot more minutes in league play — and Michigan’s ceiling rises significantly.
- Zavier Simpson: Once Simpson checked into the game, he was on the floor for 32 of the final 34 minutes of the game. He scored 15 points on 6-of-9 (2-4 3pt) shooting and handed out 7 assists to 0 turnovers. He hit open threes off the catch early, but then started attacking and scored a few critical baskets with nifty finishes at the rim. He’s still disruptive on defense and did a good job of limiting Jordan Bohannon, who only made one shot in the second half and it came in the final seconds. All of that offseason talk about how Simpson’s team always won scrimmages is starting to make a lot more sense over the last month and Michigan is at its best when he’s at the helm.
- Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman: 15 points, 7 rebounds and 6 assists (a season-high) for the senior on the road including a personal 7-0 run that helped salt the game away in the second half. Abdur-Rahkman hit big shots to bust Iowa out of its zone early on and then was aggressive taking the ball to the rim when Michigan needed baskets. His rebounding and passing were also critical and they haven’t always been part of his game.
- Charles Matthews: Matthews still makes five or six plays per game when he tries to do too much with the ball whether it is a travel, a drive into too much traffic or an ill-advised alley-oop pass. He’s also an elite slashing player who can work his way to the basket and make plays that no one else on the roster can. He was 5-of-7 inside the arc and hit 1-of-4 triples while grabbing seven boards in 36 minutes.
- Jon Teske: Teske wasn’t credited with a shot block (and certainly gave up his fair share of buckets at the rim), but he was a stronger defensive presence than Moritz Wagner. He also knocked in a pair of mid-range jumpers that haven’t seemed to fall at all this year (although the stroke is very smooth). He battled for 7 rebounds in 24 minutes and has really developed into a reliable option during Wagner’s injury stint. A few weeks ago at Texas, it was hit-or-miss whether Teske could manage to close out the game at Texas after Wagner went down. Today, he was the best big man on the floor for Michigan.
- Moritz Wagner: Wagner is clearly not himself and he struggled from the floor offensively. He was just 2-of-6 with two turnovers in 16 minutes he missed several bunnies as well as his only 3-point attempt. The health and rust are clearly bothering him on offense, but this was a game where he would have struggled on defense regardless of his health. The discussion of Wagner’s foot injury (as an issue with an ‘extra bone’) sounded concerning and Beilein told Brendan Quinn that he’s still “not right” — both of those are notable and Michigan knows how tricky foot injuries can be.
John Beilein says Moe Wagner and his right foot are still "not right." Beilein said he's "concerned about it" but that Wagner is healthy and has to get back in a rhythm.
— Brendan F. Quinn (@BFQuinn) January 3, 2018
- Eli Brooks: It is time to go back to Zavier Simpson as this team’s starting point guard. Brooks has only made 1 shot in the last five games and Michigan’s slow start today (and against Jacksonville) isn’t going to do much for the “flow” argument to keep him leading the team. Simpson has outplayed him over the last month (and is playing more than 2/3 of available minutes while closing games) and Brooks just needs to prove that he’s some kind of threat to score when he’s on the floor.
- Duncan Robinson: Robinson is on the floor to shoot and he was just 1-of-5 from the floor tonight. He had a few solid moments on defense, but he was also whistled for 3 fouls in 13 minutes and eventually Beilein went strictly with Livers at the four. Robinson had a couple of drives to the hoop, but as I wrote in the last recap, those plays might work against Jacksonville but he hasn’t proven he can finish them against Big Ten opponents. He missed both 2-pointers and had another turnover on an errant pass off of a drive.
- Jordan Poole: Poole knocked in a triple off of a pump fake and scored 3 points in 5 minutes. He also had a couple of defensive break downs in the same 5 minutes. The other answer for reserve guard minutes off the bench is Ibi Watson and he also gave up a backdoor layup in 2 minutes, so I think Poole is still the answer, but he needs to provide more consistent play on both ends of the floor — plus he’s stuck behind two of Michigan’s most consistent players.