The Michigan men’s basketball team looks to lock up an NCAA Tournament at-large bid today, as the Wolverines face Iowa in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament. Tip-off is moments away inside Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.
ESPN Bracketologist Joe Lundari has the Wolverines as a No. 11 seed. A win all but guarantees a spot in the Tournament, while a loss could drop the seed or even knock Michigan out. With conference tournaments going on right now throughout the country, unheralded teams have a chance to sneak into the Tournament by winning their conference tournament. Although a defeat shouldn’t pop Michigan’s bubble, anything can happen.
Thanks to Conseco’s awful Internet connection, we’re going to keep things simple and blog here.
Michigan: F DeShawn Sims, F Zack Novak, G Stu Douglass, F Manny Harris, G C.J. Lee
Iowa: G Aaron Fuller, F Jarryd Cole, G Matt Gatens, G Jake Kelly, G Devan Bawinkel
15:58 — Both Iowa and Michigan started off the game sloppy, committing a turnover or two each. Sims is playing just the way he did at Minnesota, aggressively. The forward is showing as much emotion as I’ve seen this year. Running onto the court for warmups he let out a big scream, and after scoring his second bucket he let out another one. Michigan will need his energy, especially when Iowa puts in its big game, Cyrus Tate (who actually just checked in). SCORE: Michigan, 6 Iowa 3.
15:20 — I’m pretty sure Sims drank some of Michael Jordan’s special drink from Space Jam. He just had a sweet reverse layup. Iowa is led by Kelly, who was honored as Big Ten Player of the Week earlier this week. So far he hasn’t scored or had any impact on the game. Knowing that he’s Iowa’s most dangerous threat, this is a good sign for Michigan.
SCORE: Michigan 10, Iowa 7.
12:20 — The Wolverines have mixed in their 1-3-1 zone defense with their man-to-man, but both have been solid so far. Iowa hasn’t had too many open looks. Alright this is ridiculous. Sims has all of Michigan’s 14 points so far. I’m sitting right behind Michigan’s bench so I’ll try to listen in and give you any inside information I can. Gibson is in for Sims, who deserves a break. SCORE: Michigan 14, Iowa 7.
11:25 — Michigan coach John Beilein just complemented redshirt freshman Laval Lucas-Perry on his 3-pointer from the right wing. All season the Wolverines have been searching for a consistent third-scorer. Lucas-Perry exploded for a career-high 19 points last Saturday, including back-to-back-to-back 3-pointers. If Lucas-Perry can string together a couple of solid game in Indianapolis, the Wolverines will be far more dangerous come the NCAA Tournament. Beilein has no intention whatsoever of losing this game, seeing as he put Sims in after just a minute on the bench. Usually the junior spend more time out of the game after he first comes out. SCORE: Michigan 17, Iowa 9.
10:28 — Sims’ drains his first shot, this one a turnaround jumper from the left baseline. ESPN writer Pat Forde is sitting across the court, and I wouldn’t be shocked if he mentions Sims, who now has 16 points. Harris just scored and got fouled, and Iowa coach Todd Lickliter was forced to call his second timeout so far. Harris’ basket was his first, but that won’t bother Beilein, since Harris already has three assists and three rebounds. SCORE: Michigan 22, Iowa 9.
Thanks to the wonderful Internet here, the last ten minutes of the blog are lost. Here’s a quick summary during halftime, as Michigan leads 40-19. Michigan simply dominated. Sims was unstoppable (18 points), Harris did everything (Eight points, eight rebounds, five assists) and Michigan shot 5-of-10 from behind the arc. Lucas-Perry hit two from downtown and guard David Merritt hit one. The Wolverines shot 15-of-22 from the field while Iowa was just 6-of-23. Kelly was held to just three points and never found a rhythm. Iowa has a bunch of deadly shooters, so Michigan needs to keep up the intensity for the final 20 minutes.
Brent Musberger and Steve Lavin are calling this game, which means two things. It’s a Big Ten game (Musberger loves himself some Big Ten ball) and Erin Andrews is here. Her great reporting makes her a fan favorite.
15:36 — Iowa is on a 7-2 run to start the second half. Harris has done a lot of catch and pivot and then nothing. Sims picks up right where he left off, hitting a jumper from the right baseline. Kelly is really struggling, he hasn’t had many open looks and hasn’t been able to penetrate much. Harris just swatted Gatens and forced a shot clock violation. Douglass follows with his second 3-pointer of the game. He’s best when he shoots right off the pass, which he just did. Harris just threw a sweet alley-oop to Sims on the break. The two Detroit natives have great chemistry on the court. SCORE: Michigan 49, Iowa 26.
13:44 — Penn State and Indiana play next. Expect Conseco to be full of Hoosier fans, since Bloomington isn’t too far away. Whether this game was in Indiana or Korea, Indiana fans would travel. There was a lot of talk going into today’s game about Tate. His size and strength could cause Michigan lots of problems inside, but Tate was held to four points and no rebounds in the first half. To add insult to injury, Sims just hit a three in Tate’s face. Michigan Athletic Director Bill Martin is sitting courtside next to the ESPN crew. He has, let’s see, about 37 television monitors at his table. Like I said earlier, SIms is playing with more emotion than I’ve ever seen. He just went for a steal and fouled Kelly. Sims yelled “NO!” and Beilein had to call him down. He kept saying that he was just going for the ball, but it was the right call. SCORE: Michigan 54, Iowa 29.
11:34 — Harris has 10 points, six rebounds and eight assists. It’s not inconceivable to think he may end up with a triple-double. Michigan associate assistant coach Jerry Dunn is on his game. Anthony Wright just went to check in when Dunn screamed at him “Anthony, you’re already in.” This truly is a total team effort. I’m a fan of Conseco Fieldhouse, which is in the second-year of a five-year deal to hold the Big Ten Tournament in Indianapolis. It’s not too big and even the highest seats don’t look too far away from the floor. SCORE: Michigan 56, Iowa 32.
8:11 — Lee is certainly acting like a coach on the floor. Both Wright and Lucas-Perry didn’t know exactly what to do on a play, and Lee made sure it ran smoothly. Sims now has 27, not bad. Kelly finally gets ahead of the defense and finds Cole on a nice cut. Iowa has been missing that all day. SCORE: Michigan 58, Iowa 36.
7:00 — Novak gets on the board with a 3-pointer from the right wing. Every Michigan starter has scored now, and three have scored from off the bench (Merritt, Gibson and Lucas-Perry). SCORE: Michigan 61, Iowa 36.
3:23 — Sims and Lee are done for the day. Lee did a good job managing the game and Sims was just outstanding. Harris just hit a step-back 3-pointer. Prior to the game, I was unsure which Harris would show up. The one who scored 25 points in the second half at Northwestern, or the one who played at Iowa. Note: Erin Andrews just flexed her biceps on the Jumbotron during “Flex Cam.” SCORE: Michigan 69, Iowa 40.
47.5 — Guard Kelvin Grady is in for Michigan. He has seen his playing time vanish over the final stretch of the season. Beilein said Merritt and Lee are better defensively, which has kept Grady on the bench. Douglass just stole a pass and dunked with his left hand on a breakaway (he traveled twice). Since about the eight- or nine-minute mark, Beilein has been telling his point guards to walk the ball up the court. Classy. And the moment we’ve all been waiting for: redshirt freshman Eric Puls has entered the game. Will he hit another 3-pointer?
SCORE: Michigan 73, Iowa 42.
And that’s a wrap. Harris and Sims combined for 45 points and Michigan got revenge for its 70-60 overtime loss a few weeks ago. Puls missed his 3-point attempt. SCORE: Michigan 73, Iowa 45.
Michigan plays Illinois tomorrow at 6:30. Check back for more on michigandaily.com tonight and another blog tomorrow.