Posted inMen's Basketball

Michigan dominates Iowa 74-53, moves onto Big Ten Tournament semifinals

CHICAGO — Twelve minutes into the first half, Michigan’s offense was stalling again. Long, unyielding scoreless droughts cost the Wolverines against Michigan State twice in the last two weeks — and in doing so, cost them a Big Ten title. And here Michigan was, again, having gone six minutes without a field goal, its lead cut to one.

Then, the ball found Eli Brooks and for just the second time since late December, the sophomore guard drained a 3-pointer.

“Coach (John Beilein) just definitely told me to keep shooting this year in practice,” Brooks said. “And they gave me a lot of confidence. Actually, if I don’t take the shot, I’m coming out.”

But his wasn’t the only outside shooting to return in Friday’s game.

In the first half alone, the Wolverines drained 7-of-16 shots from beyond the arc, one fewer than they did in the entire game last week against the Spartans. After Brooks broke the scoreless drought, Michigan’s offense suddenly looked like a juggernaut, jumping out to a double-digit lead over the next five minutes.

The offense never stopped looking that way as No. 10 Michigan (27-5 overall, 16-5 Big Ten) moved on to the Big Ten Tournament semifinals with a blowout 74-53 win over Iowa (22-11, 10-11). And, after Minnesota knocked off Purdue earlier in the day, the path to a third-straight Big Ten Tournament final is falling into place.

Defense turned to offense, the ball hummed — Zavier Simpson notched eight assists by halftime — and the Wolverines suddenly had their shooting stroke. Six different players hit 3-pointers for Michigan, junior center Jon Teske being the lone starter not to get on the board. Charles Matthews returned from injury to play 25 minutes and notched a 3-pointer for his only field goal. Ignas Brazdeikis and Jordan Poole looked every bit themselves, scoring 15 and 11 points, respectively, as Isaiah Livers put up 13 of his own.

“When the energy’s going through the arena and the team and everything,” Poole said, “everybody’s having fun — you just feel more confident shooting the ball.”

Six weeks ago in Iowa City, the Wolverines had no answer for the Hawkeyes’ offense once Teske got into foul trouble. On Friday, Teske played 24 minutes — most of his time on the bench coming once the game was already over — and the scoreboard reflected it. The Hawkeyes scored .815 points per possession while Teske dunked his way to 12 points.

“The big difference in the last game — remember, Iggy was in foul trouble,” Beilein said. “Jon was in foul trouble. He did not have, with the exception of one or two, he played really smart basketball to stay in the game. We all did.”

Since that first game against the Hawkeyes, a 74-59 loss, Michigan has struggled to look like itself for more than one or two games at a time, letting the Spartans come back twice in the second half and falling to Penn State on the road. Friday, the Wolverines scored their 60th and 61st points with 12:32 to play.

Consider it a reminder. When things are firing on all cylinders, Michigan is pretty tough to beat.

After the game, Matthews brimmed with positive energy, joking with reporters about his eating habits — “I’m not fat fat, but I eat a lot” — and being back in Chicago. He scored just five points on 1-of-9 shooting from the field, but looked himself on defense.

“I’m not 100 percent but I feel good enough to play,” Matthews said. “I’m not worried about hurting myself again or anything like that, but I know I’m not 100 percent.”

The injury — one Michigan had called an ankle injury and one Matthews repeatedly referred to as a foot injury on Friday — wasn’t an isolated incident, but built up over time until the first Michigan State game three weeks ago. “That was just the big explosion,” Matthews said. Despite that, Beilein said there was no concern about playing Matthews on a back-to-back. Matthews himself didn’t look to hedge.

“I’m back,” he said. “Just trying to get on a run now.”

As Matthews threw on a pullover, turned to the family section and flashed a smile with 15 minutes left in the game and the Wolverines up by just as many, the meaning of that statement was more than clear.

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Posted inWomen's Basketball

Iowa storms back, beats Michigan in Big Ten Tournament

INDIANAPOLIS — Both the Michigan and Iowa women’s basketball teams held double-digit leads as they faced off to open the Big Ten Tournament, but it was the latter that lasted until the end.

The Hawkeyes powered back from a 16-point deficit to build an equally commanding lead of their own, and they never let Michigan back into the game for a 97-85 win.

The Wolverines trailed by just eight going into the fourth quarter, but 35-percent shooting in the last 10 minutes prevented them from crawling back.

Michigan had been in that position before, even against Iowa. At home in January, the Wolverines trailed Iowa by 17 and came back to win. Early in the fourth quarter Thursday, they cut the lead to just two.

“We hit a couple shots and pulled within, but because we didn’t get the stops, we weren’t able to convert on the offensive end,” said senior guard Madison Ristovski, who had 10 points, four rebounds, four assists.

A simple defensive change from Iowa was the difference maker.

It became clear from the opening tip that the Hawkeyes hadn’t assigned the right matchup to Michigan freshman center Hallie Thome.

Iowa forward Chase Coley guarded Thome in the first quarter, but during that stretch the Wolverine center had 11 points, two offensive rebounds, a block and a steal.

Iowa coach Lisa Bluder adjusted the matchup, giving freshman forward Megan Gustafson a bigger share of the responsibility, and she completely flipped the script.

Gustafson played more physical against Thome, and she personally outscored Thome 11-4 in the Hawkeyes’ second-quarter run. Gustafson finished with a career-high 25 points as well as 10 rebounds, just one of Iowa’s three double-doubles Thursday.

Whenever the Wolverines’ guards were on the wing and looking to make an entry pass to the post, the other defender, either Gustafson or Coley, sagged behind Thome, ready to double-team Michigan’s inside scorer.

“The double team took my game over,” Thome said. “I saw (Coley and Gustafson) rotate back and forth, but a lot throughout the game they would come over and double. Chase is kind of a short player, so you can attack her more. Whereas Megan, you want to do the up-and-under’s to get around her feet.

“It was harder to get into deep positioning with Megan.”

With two players of Thome’s size, Iowa’s post presence wore her down, as they continued to attack her on both the offensive and defensive end. She scored just four points in the remainder of the game.

“She came out and had a great first quarter but really wasn’t able to sustain that,” said Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico.

As Thome began to struggle, the Hawkeyes took advantage. Iowa crushed Michigan in the second quarter, 31-13, stealing the lead behind a dominant showing from guard Ally Disterhoft.

Disterhoft, a second-team All-Big Ten recipient, played like she deserved to be on the first team. With 17 of her 22 points coming in the first half, the Iowa junior contributed to the Hawkeyes’ 81-percent shooting in the second quarter, helping her team respond to the slow start.

After Gustafson, Iowa’s other two double-doubles came from Coley (20 points, 10 rebounds) and guard Tania Davis (10 points, 10 assists). Despite struggling to individually defend Thome, Coley excelled on offense.

For Michigan, Flaherty led the way offensively. She put up team-high 31 to set a school single-season scoring record, but it was of little consolation in the loss. She and Thome drained their shots early on, but their reign barely lasted a quarter.

For about eight minutes on Thursday, Michigan was leaving Iowa in its dust.

But then Bluder made the switch from Coley to Gustafson, Iowa fought back and the Wolverines struggled to put together a scoring option, making for short-lived stay in Indianapolis. While Iowa advances to play No. 1 seed Maryland at noon Friday, Michigan will likely head to the WNIT to wrap up its season.

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