Michigan had all the momentum in the world.
The No. 21 Wolverines (1-1 Big Ten, 12-3 overall) fought back from a nine-point deficit with five minutes to go in the game to make it two with just under four minutes left. The No. 23 Hawkeyes (2-0 Big Ten, 14-1 overall), proceeded to slam the door shut with more force than the Incredible Hulk.
Iowa’s Chase Coley hit an elbow jumper to make the lead four. Kathleen Doyle put in a transition layup to extend it to six, then added another layup off a backdoor cut to make it eight. When Megan Gustafson beat the shot clock to make it 10 with 1:21 to go, that was all she wrote.
The Michigan women’s basketball team fell on Sunday, 82-72, at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City. The loss snaps an eight-game winning streak and keeps coach Kim Barnes Arico from passing Sue Guevara for first place on the program’s all-time wins list.
Senior guard Katelynn Flaherty managed to put up 24 points on 8-of-19 shooting, spurring Michigan’s fourth-quarter run with six straight points. However, she was the only Wolverine with more than 11 points on the night.
“I thought we had a couple opportunities of some other people to make plays, whether that be getting stops on the defensive end, or even on the offensive end with the defense they were playing, denying Katelynn and denying (Nicole) Munger a little bit,” Barnes Arico told WTKA. “But we really couldn’t get too many other people going.
“I thought Kayla Robbins did a decent job of giving us some real good minutes as she’s done the last couple of games. But other than that, we really struggled to get going.”
The Hawkeyes managed to keep the Wolverines quiet with a triangle-and-two defense that flummoxed them.
“They face-guarded Katelynnn and face-guarded Nicole and we really weren’t able to get them any open looks the rest of the game,” Barnes Arico said. “We really struggled with that. And I would imagine that’s how teams are probably gonna defend us, so we gotta continue working on that.”
The game was decided down low. Gustafson, who averages 22.1 points and 12.6 rebounds per game for Iowa, lived up to her billing. She finished with 27 points and 11 rebounds on 8-of-9 shooting from the field, getting junior center Hallie Thome into foul trouble early and spending the rest of the game scoring over double-teams.
“I thought we did a great job in the first half of really crowding (Gustafson),” Barnes Arico said. “I think some of their other role players made a couple shots and I think that made our kids a little bit nervous, to come on out and to guard some of them. When they did, that really opened things up for Gustafson.”
Thome herself was shut down by Gustafson and the rest of Iowa’s defense. Despite the foul trouble, she played 31 minutes, but managed just seven points, her second-worst mark of the season.
Michigan has, for the most part, spent the season feasting on non-conference opponents, their only two losses coming against two top-three teams. On Sunday, it learned the hard way that the competition in the Big Ten, on the road, is a good deal tougher.
“Welcome to the Big Ten,” Barnes Arico said. “Where every night, if you’re not focused, if you’re not locked in, if you’re not ready to go for 40 minutes, you can be beat.”