IOWA CITY — Last year, before the start of the Big Ten Tournament in New York City, Iowa video coordinator Courtney Eldridge pulled the Hawkeyes’ sophomore class aside. In their two seasons at Iowa, he realized, the group had yet to notch a signature win. The next day, they came a point away from doing so in an overtime loss to Michigan. Instead, they fell just short, marking a familiarly disappointing end to a 14-19 season.
Friday night against the same opponent, that signature win finally arrived, as Iowa (17-5 overall, 6-5 Big Ten) took down the fifth-ranked Wolverines, 74-59.
The game took a sour turn for Michigan (20-2, 9-2) just 1:19 after tipoff, when junior center Jon Teske picked up his first foul, forcing John Beilein to call for Isaiah Livers off the bench. It only took 31 seconds before the sophomore forward committed a foul of his own. Less than a minute later, he too made his way to the bench after another foul under the basket.
Freshman forward Brandon Johns held his own until the under-12 media timeout, when Teske re-entered with the game knotted at 11. Six seconds later, Iowa forward Tyler Cook charged at Teske, attempting to throw a dunk over him. The ball rattled off the back of the rim, but more importantly, Teske was whistled for his second foul, sending him to the bench for the remainder of the half.
“One of our game plans, as always, was try to get their big in foul trouble,” said Iowa forward Luka Garza. “So we did a really good job of that. Me, Tyler (Cook), Ryan (Kriener), we all had a focus on that. We attacked them inside, just to try to get them out of there. And it worked for us.”
Six minutes later, Nicholas Baer caught the ball in transition, squaring up from the top of the arc as the crowd at Carver-Hawkeye Arena rose to its feet. Seconds later, the ball splashed through the net, blowing the roof off the building and completing a 21-2 run that gave Iowa a 14-point lead it would never relinquish.
“Basketball game’s a game full of runs,” said junior guard Zavier Simpson. “They’re gonna make runs, we’re gonna make runs. They just happened to make a big run. Salute to Iowa.”
The run came on the back of a dominant inside performance from Iowa in Teske’s absence, as five of its seven field goals during the stretch came in the paint. With Johns and redshirt sophomore forward Austin Davis manning the ‘5’ for nearly the entire remainder of the half, the Hawkeyes went into halftime with a 22-6 advantage in the paint and 22-10 on the boards.
“It’s not the same presence of the room (without Teske),” Kreiner said. “Michigan gets really aggressive denying things. And if they’re denying things, you gotta drive the ball. … And if Teske’s not there to rotate over, it’s a lot easier to finish.”
The second half was a more even affair, but each Michigan threat was quickly snuffed out by an Iowa response — especially on the defensive end, where the Hawkeyes’ mix of zone, man-to-man and full-court press forced the Wolverines into a 8-for-33 performance from three.
Michigan, though, was able use a 16-6 run to cut the deficit to five midway through the second half, relying on Teske’s interior presence to get back into the game.
Then, with 9:08 to play and a chance to silence the Carver-Hawkeye crowd, sophomore Jordan Poole pump faked, slid to his left and fired off a three that would have pulled the Wolverines within four. It clanged off the front of the rim and into the hands of Iowa forward Luka Garza. Seconds later, Garza popped a 3-pointer from the right wing. Unlike Poole’s, his caught nothing but net.
From there, the final eight minutes were an obligatory procession toward the final buzzer sounding and a mass of black-and-gold clad students descending on the court. As students mobbed the team, the arena speakers began to blast Queen’s Another One Bites The Dust.
Only for the Hawkeyes, this win was one of a kind.