Throughout the season, the point guard position has been a source of limited production for the Michigan men’s basketball team.
In their previous game, freshman Eli Brooks and sophomore Zavier Simpson combined for just two points on three shot attempts facing a far inferior Jacksonville team.
But on Tuesday night, Simpson played the best game of his college career, tallying 15 points and 7 assists to lead the Wolverines (2-1 Big Ten, 13-3 overall) to a 75-68 win over Iowa (0-3, 9-7) at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
The win didn’t come easily, however.
With just over 10 minutes to go, the Hawkeyes went on an 11-3 run to close its deficit to just six. And after leading by as many as 18 points, the eeriness of Michigan’s collapse at Ohio State last month crept in.
But, fittingly, it was Simpson who stopped the bleeding. With a layup that beat the shot clock and an assist to senior guard Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Raham, he sparked the Wolverines to a 9-0 stretch that put the possibility of another Big Ten loss out of question.
With an augmented command of the offense and a 6-for-9 effort from the field, Simpson was instrumental throughout.
Freshman forward Isaiah Livers, meanwhile, scored a career-high 13 points. Abdur-Rakhman added 15.
Like Saturday, it was another slow start for the Wolverines, who coughed up five turnovers before the game’s first media timeout — including two traveling calls against Matthews.
But with the Hawkeyes struggling to find twine, Abdur-Rahkman and Simpson each knocked down a pair of 3s to launch Michigan to a 15-point advantage midway through the frame.
That would set the tone for eight made triples from six different Wolverines in the first half.
And with a 62-percent shooting performance on 15 assists, Michigan would take a 49-36 lead into the break.
The Hawkeyes would fight back, however. With an 11-0 run, Iowa closed its deficit to single-digits early into the second frame.
But just as he did later in the half, it was Simpson ended the run, wiggling his way into the paint for an easy score — the beginning of back-and-forth basketball for the rest of game.