IOWA CITY Following its most celebration-worthy win of the season, a jubilant Michigan basketball team stormed the Carver-Hawkeye Arena court after Dean Oliver”s last-ditch baseline fadeaway drew iron, officially granting the Wolverines a miraculous 70-69 road victory over No. 16 Iowa.
“At first I thought the shot was good,” Michigan junior Chris Young said of Oliver”s miss. “I jumped as high as I could and contested it. I turned around and watched it hit rim, and I went crazy.”
The Wolverines appeared reborn as they utilized clutch shooting and a mostly-suffocating defense to top the Hawkeyes (3-2 Big Ten, 14-4 overall), who were previously unbeaten at home. The Wolverines (2-3, 8-8) never trailed in an immaculate performance and hardly resembled the struggling team that had been lambasted in all prior road games.
“We”re very happy to come in one of the greatest environments you can possibly play in and get a win against a team that sits atop the Big Ten conference,” Michigan coach Brian Ellerbe said.
“Our kids can be very resilient when they want to be.”
After a dominant first half, Michigan held on for dear life in the game”s waning minutes to eke out a victory.
Iowa”s star trio of Oliver, Luke Recker and Reggie Evans scrambled to turn a double-digit deficit into a near victory. But Evans and Oliver both misfired with less than 10 seconds remaining, leading to Michigan”s post-game melee.
The stunning victory potentially puts an end to the road slump that Michigan has been mired in throughout the season.
“It would have really been a shame if that went in,” Iowa coach Steve Alford said. “I have no intent in a team winning when they only play five minutes. I thought Michigan”s kids worked harder and they deserved that win tonight.”
While the game”s end saw Michigan holding on by a fingernail, the first 20 minutes saw the Wolverines assemble their finest half of the season, thoroughly dominating Iowa in nearly every aspect of the game.
Michigan led by as many as 15 points in the first half and went into halftime with a 36-24 lead.
The Wolverines turned the ball over just five times and shot 48 percent from the field in the first half. Meanwhile, Iowa shot under 21 percent and looked largely disoriented.
“Michigan is going to come at you,” Alford said. “Don”t believe what you read about a wounded team.
“We were at an absolute loss on the bench trying to figure out what we were doing.”
LaVell Blanchard opened the contest with a 3-pointer and proceeded to slay the Hawkeyes with 30 points, a new career high.
Blanchard shot with the proficiency of a player fully deserving of an All-American or superstar tag. Working mainly from the perimeter, Blanchard connected on 8-of-12 shots in the first half and shot over 60 percent on the night before fouling out with 1:13 left in the game.
Blanchard cooled off in the second half, but Michigan made enough timely baskets to steal its first victory outside of Crisler Arena this season.
Michigan”s unlikely win puts it back in the hunt for postseason play. The Wolverines have seven home games and four road games remaining on the Big Ten slate, with a Thursday night home contest against No. 7 Illinois next on the schedule.
“Without a doubt it”s a big win,” Blanchard said.