IOWA CITY After nine straight losses away from Crisler Arena, the Michigan men”s basketball team was starting to get a bit anxious. But with Saturday night”s 70-69 victory over No. 14 Iowa, the Wolverines fought through the anxiety and got their first win on the road since they defeated Northwestern in Evanston, 61-55 in overtime, on Feb. 26, 2000.
“On the road, it”s tough to win in the Big Ten,” sophomore Gavin Groninger said. “To beat a team at the top of the board like that shows that we can play. Tonight we showed how important the starts of games are.”
With this past Thursday”s 8-4 start at Ohio State being the exception, Michigan”s pattern on the road has been to fall behind early and have to play catch-up the rest of the game. The Wolverines have held the lead in just one other road game all season their 97-83 loss to St. John”s on Dec. 3 in the BB&T Classic.
But on Saturday, Michigan took the lead from the beginning and never looked back.
“When we don”t have to play catch-up and we get a lead, we play better,” freshman Maurice Searight said. “We play harder every possession.”
With the win, the Wolverines also got their first Big Ten road win in four tries this season. Michigan has not played a season without a conference road win since the 1966-67 season the year after Michigan legend Cazzie Russell graduated. The Wolverines finished last in the Big Ten that year with a 2-12 conference record.
Then-Michigan coach Dave Strack, who led the team to a 24-4 record and an NCAA Tournament runner-up finish only two years earlier, left the team just one season later and was replaced by Johnny Orr, the school”s all-time career wins leader with 209.
Second threat: Searight continues to impress and earn time in the Michigan lineup. Saturday night, Searight played the final 13 minutes of the first half and was critical in frustrating Iowa shooters on the perimeter.
The Hawkeyes shot just 1-of-10 from beyond the arc in the first half, including a 0-for-4 performance from sharp-shooting guard Luke Recker.
“I just want to go out, give some good minutes and play tough defense,” Searight said. “I tried to make sure everyone was together and everything was going good.”
While Searight”s play at the point is improving, fellow freshman Avery Queen continues to be the go-to guy down the stretch. Queen played the entire second half and tied a career-high with nine assists. More importantly, he and Searight combined for just two turnovers.
“Maurice can get it in the paint, and they”ve got to worry about him a little more when he penetrates,” Groninger said. Avery “looks to run the team more and teams don”t have to worry as much about him penetrating. They”re two different looks, and they combine nicely with each other.”