CHICAGO — The whistle came just 28 seconds into the second half.
Then another, and another, and another and another, five Michigan fouls in two minutes.
Iowa is a team known for drawing fouls — something it made known in Iowa City on Feb. 1, where foul trouble spiraled for the Wolverines, who found themselves powerless as Hawkeye fans stormed the court after a 15-point victory.
This time was different. When the foul trouble came, it didn’t happen quite so early, and Michigan kept its composure. Amid the whistles, a 13-point haltime lead ballooned into 20 just five minutes into the second half. This time, the Wolverines were the ones running the Hawkeyes off the United Center floor in a 74-53 laugher in the quarterfinals of the Big Ten Tournament.
“I couldn’t wait to see Iowa again,” said sophomore forward Isaiah Livers. “Just because that last feeling we felt when we were leaving Iowa City, they stormed the court on us. As we deserved.”
Michigan’s statement was much more subdued. There was no court-storming, just the players quickly walking off the court, ushered to their media duties. But it was a statement all the same. The Wolverines made Iowa play their game this time, and their game worked to near perfection.
Last time, junior center Jon Teske could barely stay on the floor, playing just 13 minutes before fouling out. This time, Teske played with a chip on his shoulder. He finished with 12 points and 10 rebounds, helping Hawkeye forward Tyler Cook relatively locked down on the defensive end.
Livers, Teske’s replacement in Iowa City, also struggled then. He, too, found himself in foul trouble and played 14 minutes with three points. Coming off the bench on Friday, Livers moved around the wing with ease. Against Iowa’s zone, he was 6-for-10 from the field, and eventually, Michigan scored enough that the Hawkeyes just stopped playing it.
“(Livers) said before the game, ‘I’m really confident, I’m gonna attack, I’m gonna shoot my shots,’ ” said assistant coach DeAndre Haynes. “And he did.”
The confidence spread like wildfire.
It hit Simpson and Teske, who combined for 22 points and two double-doubles. It hit sophomore guard Jordan Poole and freshman forward Ignas Brazdeikis, who finished with 26 points, four triples and a flurry of flexes. It hit the defense, which didn’t let the Hawkeyes’ bigs bully it. It hit the bench, which kept the ball rolling after a spell of foul trouble.
“Last time we played them, we just rushed everything,” Haynes said. “They had a great crowd there, we just played into their game. … We just came down, shot a shot. Came down, shot a shot. We didn’t have no flow, we had no rhythm or anything. So we told ourselves to slow it down a little bit, let’s get what we want, let’s play Michigan basketball.”
This time, it was Iowa that seemed rushed and overwhelmed, that threw up shots because there was nothing else to do. The Hawkeyes shot 1-of-16 from three, and the lone make was banked in with a minute left. When it found a glimmer of its game — drawing those fouls, the key back in February — Iowa couldn’t capitalize, finishing 10-for-18 from the line.
“We played Michigan basketball,” Haynes said. “And that’s how we won the game.”
There’s a distinctive feeling when you get when you lose like the Wolverines did that night in Iowa City — a “pit in the stomach,” as Teske described it. Michigan knew that feeling all too well.
And because of that, now, the Hawkeyes do too.