It took overtime, 46 foul calls, 14 missed free throws, a five-second violation and a lot of frustration, but eventually Michigan knocked off Iowa on Thursday afternoon.
The Wolverines were the better team, but left the door wide open for Iowa to steal the game late thanks to woeful execution down the stretch. With Moritz Wagner and Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman fouling out, it fell on Duncan Robinson, Charles Matthews and Zavier Simpson to pull Michigan to victory. They did just enough.
Michigan deserves credit for figuring out how to wiggle its way out of a jam and earn an important victory, but this game was also a reminder that this team has plenty of potential flaws that can flare up at any given time.
Michigan’s offense only scored 1.02 points per possession against Iowa despite making 58% of its 2-point attempts and attempting 32 free throws. The Wolverines just couldn’t make shots away from the basket. They were 3-of-19 on 3-point attempts and 18-of-32 on free throws in the win. Michigan attacked the basket as well as it has in any game this season, consistently driving all the way to the rim, but without that perimeter shooting the offense could never get in gear. Duncan Robinson was the only Wolverine to make a 3-pointer in the game.
Iowa has the worst defense in the Big Ten, but for whatever reason Michigan hasn’t quite been able to crack it completely open this year.
Defensively, Michigan really struggled in the first half but was much better in the second. Iowa was picking Michigan apart in its screen and roll and screen and pop game early, but Beilein and his staff made the necessary adjustments in the second. Iowa was effective on the offensive glass early on in the game, but Michigan settled in and improved in that department. The Hawkeyes did grab 12 offensive rebounds, but that was just a 28% offensive rebounding rate.
Jordan Bohannon did hit the 3-pointer to send the game to overtime, but Michigan — Zavier Simpson — largely kept him in check. Bohannon scored 11 points on 14 shot attempts and turned the ball over 3 times in the loss.
John Beilein is now 11-0 in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament, but next up is a rematch with Nebraska (2:30 p.m. BTN) on Friday afternoon. The Wolverines have the short turnaround after an overtime game, but the good news is that Moritz Wagner and Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman should be fairly rested after only playing around 20 minutes a piece.
- Charles Matthews: The best news on an otherwise average day was that Charles Matthews played his best game in quite some time. Matthews scored 16 points on 5-of-10 shooting, grabbed 8 rebounds and handed out two assists in the victory. He also didn’t turn the ball over or attempt a 3-pointer, but did knock in a long two. Matthews seemed to play comfortably and within himself — notably pulling the ball back on several semi-transition opportunities when nothing was available — and Michigan needed his offense with other options on the bench.
- Duncan Robinson: Robinson hit three huge 3-pointers in the second half and overtime and Beilein said after the game that they came out of designed action to get him a shot. Another multi-three, 50% 3-point shooting game is very encouraging news for Robinson and Michigan is flat out a different team when he makes threes.
- Zavier Simpson: Simpson was aggressive attacking the basket and had a number of blow by drives to the rim. He was 5-of-9 inside the arc but just 0-of-4 from 3-point range and 2-of-5 from the free throw line. Simpson played terrific defense against Jordan Bohannon, but I thought there were moments late in the game where he could have done a better job of getting Michigan into a set and making something happen but instead the Wolverines were stuck with a desperation shot attempt.
- Isaiah Livers: Livers had had 9 points in 20 minutes and played one of his more productive games in a while. He got out for a transition dunk and was active cutting to the rim. He’s struggled a bit since his injury, but he seems to be catching back up to game speed and was more aggressive than we’ve seen of late.
- Moritz Wagner: When Wagner was on the floor, he was effective. He had a few beautiful moves to the basket and really set the tone out of the gate in the second half. He also was whistled for 5 fouls in 16 minutes. When Wagner can only play a handful of minutes, his importance to Michigan’s offense becomes obvious. The Wolverines were sputtering late in the game without him on the floor.
- Jon Teske: Teske struggled from the floor (1-of-5 fg, 1-of-4 ft), but he gave Michigan some solid production defensively and on the glass. Teske finished with 9 rebounds, 2 blocks and a steal in 28 minutes.
- Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman: Abdur-Rahkman was deadly early on as he attacked the basket, but then he got into foul trouble and never regained his flow. He finished with 9 points and 3 assists in just 22 minutes.
- Jordan Poole: Poole had some beautiful drives to the basket, but his 3-point stroke was way off with a couple of ugly misses and he turned the ball over 3 times. Poole seemed to let the emotions of the game get the best of him a bit, but he still played important crunchtime minutes after Abdur-Rahkman fouled out and held his own.
- Jaaron Simmons: Simmons had fairly uneventful shifts backing up Simpson, finished with just 1 assist. There’s nothing wrong with a quiet shift from the backup point guard.