Welcome to the Big Ten, where the schedule rewards you for a win in Madison with a game against No. 10 Iowa once you get back home.
Playing in a conference this strong has its benefits come tournament time, but when a team is in the thick of it, it's difficult to think in the long-term. This is especially true when a team like Iowa team can wave after wave of size and speed at you like special teams gunners screaming down the field.
Coming off of such a cathartic win at the Kohl Center, a letdown on the part of the Wolverines perhaps would not have been so surprising. Plus, the Wolverines would have to do it without a 100 percent Derrick Walton, who was limited (and didn't start) due to an illness.
After a quiet couple of minutes to start the game, the offenses hit their stride. The Hawkeyes surged ahead at first, playing at breakneck speed and not affording Michigan the opportunity to even get its defense set. More problematically, Glenn Robinson had no answer for Melsahn Basabe in the paint; Basabe had 11 points on 5-of-6 shooting by the 11:29 mark of the first half.
Luckily for the Wolverines, Nik Stauskas also came to play, picking up right where he left off in Madison. Michigan's Mississaugan wheeled and dealed, hitting all manner of shots, stepback or otherwise, while also finding his teammates in good spots.
Iowa began to flex its muscles later in the half, as Adam Woodbury hit Jon Horford with an effortless lefty hook shot on consecutive possessions, giving Iowa a 31-30 lead with just under four minutes to play in the half.
The Wolverines ended up taking a 38-34 lead into the half, with Iowa's Aaron White, strangely, not having attempted a single field goal in the first half. You had to think Fran McCaffery would try to remedy that for the second half.
Iowa shot 53.6 percent from the field in the first half, and generally got whatever it wanted inside the paint. The Wolverines shot well themselves, however, connecting on 48.4 percent of their shots (4-of-10 from three).
Stauskas came out firing early in the second, hitting his third three of the game to give the Wolverines their largest lead of the game at 41-34.
Watching this game was pretty much like that kick you get when you take the first few sips of your morning coffee, only your coffee is actually super-coffee.
The Wolverines ripped off a 7-0 run, capped by a monstrous Robinson jam and an Albrecht two after stealing the ensuing inbound pass, Florida game style. Although there was still a long way to go, for a second I felt that tournament magic from last March, when Michigan could seemingly do no wrong.
Michigan led, 54-43, but against an Iowa team that can score with speed, no lead could be deemed enough, especially with 14 minutes left to play.
Unfortunately for the Wolverines, Spike Albrecht, who had played most of the game in Walton's stead, picked up a cheap third foul with 10:32 to play. With Walton battling an illness, Michigan went without a true point guard on the floor, going with a Stauskas-Horford-LeVert-Robinson-Irvin lineup for about a minute.
The Hawkeyes cut the lead to six, but that's when Zak Irvin answered the call, burying a clutch triple then finishing a layup in transition, pushing the Michigan lead back to 11. Once again, Albrecht continues to prove himself as somewhat of a wizard in transition. Sometimes he enters some tough spots and you think there's no way anything good will come of it, but he almost always finds a way to find the open man.
But White would not let Iowa go down without a fight. The junior streaked down the left side and scored in transition, then intercepted the inbound pass, Albrecht style scoring an easy layup, cutting the lead to six. After a Michigan turnover, White added a left-handed hook in the lane, cutting the lead to four; he'd also score on the next possession, giving Iowa nine straight points.
Of course, this was not good news for the Wolverines. The Hawkeyes were seemingly down for the count, but sloppiness and rushed jumpers by the Wolverines allowed Iowa (i.e. White) to crawl back into the game.
Who could Michigan call upon to momentarily stem the tide? Stauskas? Robinson? Why, Zak Irvin of course. The freshman buried his third triple of the game to give Michigan a 67-60 lead with under four minutes to play.
Up 71-65 after a pair of Stauskas free throws, Michigan got a critical defensive stop that would just about seal it, with 44.7 seconds remaining.
Stauskas finished with 26 points and five assists on the night, another all-around magnificent performance for the sophomore. Despite 17 points apiece from Iowa's White and Basabe, the Wolverines held the Hawkeye bench to just eight points, a major win for the Michigan defense.
With the win, the Wolverines remained perfect in the Big Ten at 6-0. Needless to say, Saturday's trip to East Lansing will be intense (not to mention Michigan's third straight game against a top 10 team). But hey, that's the Big Ten, and I wouldn't have it any other way.