Following two straight losses, the last thing the Michigan men’s basketball team needed to be was lackadaisical.

But that’s exactly what the Wolverines were in the second half last night as they fell to Iowa at Crisler Arena, 69-62.

The Hawkeyes used a backbreaking 20-1 run that spanned nearly eight minutes of the second half to get back into the game. Michigan’s lead ballooned to as many as 14 points in the first half and Iowa was still down 11 when the spurt began.

And while the Hawkeyes started clicking on all cylinders, the Wolverines’ offense sputtered in a big way. Michigan went nearly nine minutes without a field goal in the middle of the second half.

But the Wolverines had a chance to regain the lead late after senior Lester Abram hit a lay-up to cut the Hawkeye lead to just one with 59 seconds remaining.

And just like the entire second half, Michigan’s defense broke down. On the ensuing possession, Iowa sophomore Tony Freeman drove down the lane for an easy lay-up and was fouled by guard Jerret Smith in the process to seal the deal for the Hawkeyes.

And foul was about the only way to describe Michigan’s second-half performance last night.

“We let up,” Michigan senior Courtney Sims said. “I don’t think we were intense enough. We probably thought we had the game (won), and we didn’t. And they fought back and out-toughed us.”

Now on its first three-game losing streak of the season, Michigan may have ended any realistic NCAA Tournament hopes. After starting this season 16-4, the Wolverines can’t help but think about its 2-7 finish to last year’s campaign.

“We didn’t finish strong down the stretch last year, and here we go on a three-game losing streak at almost the same time period,” Harris said. “It’s important for us to just get a win. We have to try and not think about (the NCAA Tournament) as much because that’s going to affect you.”

The run by the Hawkeyes was more surprising given the defensive intensity shown by Michigan in the first half. The Wolverines held guard Adam Haluska, the Big Ten’s leading scorer heading into last night’s game, to just seven points on 2-of-7 shooting from the field in the first.

Freshman forward Tyler Smith – an under-the-radar candidate for Big Ten Freshman of the Year- scored just four points.

But something changed once the teams came out of the locker room.

Smith exploded in the second half, scoring 18 second-half points and wreaking havoc on the boards. It didn’t help that the Wolverines left Haluska, a deadly 3-point shooter, wide open from beyond the arc several times.

“We didn’t stop or do anything (in the second half),” Harris said. “They kept on knocking the shots down, and we couldn’t. When you have a team scoring at will like they did in the second half, it’s real frustrating,”

Adding to the Wolverines’ demise was their ineptness on offense. After shooting over 45 percent from the floor the first 20 minutes, the team struggled mightily, and shot below 30 percent in the second half.

Harris may have had the worst shooting night of his Michigan career, going 0-for-11 from the floor and scoring just one point the entire game.

The lone bright spot for the Wolverines was the performance of Courtney Sims in the paint. The Boston native had 29 points and 10 rebounds, scoring in a variety of ways.

But with another road game on the horizon (Ohio State on Feb. 6), Michigan has some soul searching to do if it wants to salvage its season.

“Coming off two road losses and then coming back home when you think you’re going to have everything going for you, and then we let one go,” Harris said. “It’s very hard to look at.”

Notes: Senior Brent Petway went down with a left knee injury late in the first half, after landing awkwardly on a block attempt. The forward returned at the start of the second half, but left after just three minutes. He did not return, but after the game said he should be ready to go for Tuesday’s game against the Buckeyes. . Sophomore Jerret Smith played 21 minutes after missing last weekend’s 76-61 loss to Indiana. The Romulus native had been suffering from a mild concussion after a collision with Wisconsin’s Marcus Landry.

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