IOWA CITY – With three minutes remaining in the game, Iowa guard Tony Freeman raced down the court and bounced the ball off the backboard for teammate Doug Thomas. Although Michigan forward Brent Petway got in the way of Thomas’s attempt to dunk it home, the sellout crowd at Carver- Hawkeye Arena was unphased.
The fans didn’t have any reason to be angry. The Hawkeyes had their bench in the game and a secure 25-point lead. At that point, it was all fun and games – at least for Iowa.
On Saturday, No. 21 Michigan’s five-game winning streak was snapped with a vengeance, and its Big Ten title hopes took a hit as it was blown out by No. 23 Iowa, 94-66.
“I was disappointed in a lot of things about our team (Saturday), but as I’ve said before, a lot of things in this game become contagious,” Michigan coach Tommy Amaker said. “I thought it was certainly that way for them, and in a lot of ways was that way with us.”
As three minutes remained in the first half, the visiting Wolverines (6-3 Big Ten, 16-4 overall) actually held a 29-28 lead. Little did they know that at the same point in the second half, the Hawkeye starters would be relaxing on the bench, celebrating a blowout victory over first-place Michigan.
Where did it go wrong?
Was it Iowa’s 15-4 run to end the first half?
Was it the 13-for-19 clinic Iowa put on from 3-point range?
Or was it Iowa’s season-high 65.3-percent shooting performance?
There could be multiple reasons for Michigan’s worst loss of the season. But senior point guard Daniel Horton summed it up best:
“They just came out, and they kicked our butts,” he said.
The loss put Michigan in a second-place tie, a game behind Iowa in the conference standings.
Michigan started the game on an 8-2 run, which was jumpstarted by Horton’s six points. Then junior Dion Harris picked up two fouls in the game’s first two minutes of play.
Amaker was forced to change his gameplan when the Wolverines’ already-thin backcourt – which was without guard Jerret Smith (mild concussion) and wing Lester Abram (sprained ankle) – became even thinner when Harris went to the bench.
That forced Michigan to play a zone defense, in hopes of preventing further foul trouble.
But the zone allowed Iowa (7-2, 18-5) to get hot.
What followed was the best shooting performance Horton said he had seen in all four of his years at Michigan.
The Hawkeyes shot 7-for-9 in the opening half from long distance. They got multiple treys from Mike Henderson, Jeff Horner and Freeman.
“We were trying to protect Dion (who was) in foul trouble,” Amaker said. “(We) tried to match up a little in a zone, and they really started to knock it down from the 3-point line.”
The onslaught extended into the second half. Unlike in previous games where the Wolverines got out to quick second-half starts, they were beaten out of the blocks by Iowa on Saturday. The Hawkeyes scored the half’s first six points, all from their senior leader Greg Brunner. Michigan, on the other hand, failed to score on its first six possessions.
When Horton finally scored four minutes into the half, the Wolverines were already behind by double-digits, where they remained for the rest of the game.
Horton led the Michigan offense for the 10th time of the season. He scored 19 points, shooting 5-for-10 from the field. His consecutive free throw streak ended at 42 late in the first half.
Iowa had five players in double figures. No Hawkeye who played more than three minutes shot below 50 percent from the field. The Hawkeyes had entered the game as the second worst shooting team in the Big Ten, averaging a dismal 41 percent field goal percentage.
But on Saturday, the Hawkeyes threw statistics out the window. Everything clicked for Iowa, while everything went wrong for Michigan.
“This is one of those games that is just hard to explain,” Horton said. “The way they shot, and how they were at home, it was just tough to overcome those things.”
Despite the setback, Horton reiterated the fact that there isn’t panic in the Michigan locker room yet.
“We’ve lost worse than this before,” Horton said. “We’ve been through losing streaks.I don’t think it’s going to snowball. Our coaching staff won’t let it snowball.”