IOWA CITY — The Michigan men’s basketball team hadn’t won a game in Carver-Hawkeye Arena since 2011. Even then, the Wolverines needed five extra minutes to get the job done.
On the first day of 2017, Michigan (0-1 Big Ten, 10-4 overall) found out overtime would not be in the formula to break that streak, as the Wolverines dropped their Big Ten opener to Iowa, 86-83.
Hawkeye guard Peter Jok, who entered Sunday’s contest leading the conference averaging 21.9 points per game, hit a three with the game knotted at 81 and 1:18 to go that ultimately gave Iowa (1-1, 9-6) the breathing room it needed to pull out the win.
The Wolverines had a couple of opportunities to catch up to the Hawkeyes to force another overtime period or even leave with the win. Down three, senior guard Derrick Walton Jr. stole an inbound pass and took it all the way to the rim to trim the deficit to one.
After a pair of Jok free throws brought Iowa’s lead back up to three with 19.7 seconds left, redshirt sophomore forward DJ Wilson missed a three with seven seconds to go. Wilson’s attempt was rebounded by senior guard Zak Irvin, who, after a couple passes, had the ball in his hands again. But he failed to get a shot off from behind the arc with Hawkeye defenders swarming him as the final seconds ticked away.
“It wasn’t really for me, it was more for (Walton) and (redshirt junior guard Duncan Robinson) rolling up,” Wilson said of his final shot. “I got the skip pass and I think I got a look and just shot it wrong.”
The Wolverines had a chance to prevent the game from going into overtime in the first place, when Michigan had the ball with the game tied at 74 and 15 seconds remaining. Walton let the clock wind down before driving toward the hoop and absorbing contact in the process. No foul was called and the ball went out of bounds, inevitably sending the game into overtime.
“I hated that,” said Michigan coach John Beilein. “We ran something that I (thought) would get (sophomore forward Moritz Wagner) open on a ball screen or to do something and we didn’t get rid of it quick enough.
“But that was my fault. We should have run something, we had just put it in the other day and I thought it would work. We should have run something we have run more.”
The Wolverines’ inability to put the game away against Iowa cost them an important conference road victory and a chance to find momentum early in the Big Ten season.
But there are some silver linings Michigan can leave Iowa City with.
Wilson and Wagner each had games to remember in their first career Big Ten starts.
Even in the opening minutes of Sunday’s matchup, it was clear Wilson was going to have a career day. With over four minutes left in the first half, the forward surpassed his previous career high of 16 points on his way to finishing with a double-double of 28 points and 14 rebounds.
Wagner also had his own moments navigating the Hawkeyes’ defense in the post. He finished with 12 points on 6-for-10 shooting.
Walton and Irvin, on the other hand, had a difficult return from their holiday break. The pair shot 1-for-11 in the opening half but found some rhythm in the final 25 minutes, finishing with a combined 25 points, nine rebounds and nine assists.
“Those guys are expected to do a lot of things,” Beilein said “They’re guarding their two best players, then they have to turn around and score on offense. That’s the mindset a senior has got to have and I like the way they rebounded out of that.”
Robinson was also essential in Michigan’s effort down the stretch, scoring 15 points on 6-for-12 shooting.
But even that wasn’t enough, as the Wolverines will once again leave Iowa City without a win, heartbroken they couldn’t finish in crunch time when they had multiple opportunities to do so.
“The balls didn’t bounce our way sometimes, but that’s Big Ten play and we have to learn from it,” Beilein said. “Our guys are really disappointed, but we have 17 more games in this league. Hopefully there are a lot of things we will learn and take forward to Penn State on Wednesday.”