Heading into the final TV timeout of the first half, the scored was tied at 29. For the first time all season, vague inklings of doubt perhaps started to occupy the dusty, cobweb-ridden spot in the Michigan basketball fan's psyche where doubt is conceived.
The final three minutes of the half happened, and the Wolverines went into the break up 46-35 after a prolific deluge of offense. When the final seconds ticked off the clock, the final score read: Michigan 95, Iowa 67. Only a few days after dismantling a short-handed Northwestern team on the road, the Wolverines topped that 94-point effort by a point on the back of a 58% shooting percentage from the field and a +11 rebounding margin.
You wouldn't know it from the final score, but the Hawkeyes gave Michigan its biggest scare of the season in the opening minutes, jumping out to a short-lived 7-0 start. The Wolverines took a little while to get going on the offensive end and, quite frankly, the Hawkeyes were playing well in the early stages. If Iowa's close defeat against Indiana last Monday wasn't enough indication, the opening minutes of the game were surely enough to get the Wolverines back into search and destroy mode.
Glenn Robinson III helped jumpstart the Wolverines four minutes in, slamming down a missed Tim Hardaway Jr. layup in transition and then burying a trey a few possessions later. Mitch McGary came into the game about four minutes and contributed his typically crunkly play; he nailed an elbow jumper, snatched a rebound on the next defensive possession and delivered a Wes Unseld-ian outlet pass to Trey Burke (who unfortunately missed a circus layup attempt in transition).
Aside from Michigan's always sterling backcourt play, the frontcourt did a nice job shutting down Aaron White. White pitched in a layup and an open dunk in the opening minute of the game only to score two more points throughout the rest of the game. Given the aforementioned rebounding disparity and the Hawkeyes' inability to keep Michigan from filling it up on the offensive end, the only way to make up the difference was from beyond the arc, where Iowa shot an okay 35%. Unfortunately for Iowa, Michigan nailed 45% of its threes. Put all of those ingredients together and you have all the makings of a classic smashing victory; as Bo would've said, "Iowa's not that bad a team and we dismembered them
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The most frightening --"frightening" in its ability to inspire awe, that is-- thing about this game is the stark line of demarcation between the portion of the game during which it was still a game and the portion that was an absolute blowout. Sports broadcasters speak in cliches about talented teams knowing how and when to simply "flip the switch," but today this was in fact reality.
For 17 minutes, Iowa looked like a squad that deserved to be on the same floor as Michigan, a team that will probably give the Big Ten's elite some problems this season. Then, it was as if the proverbial dam broke, and Michigan's talent, athleticism and alchemically perfect combination of experience and youth-belying experience rolled over the Crisler Center floor like a furious avalanche.
Brian mentioned this during the game and I have to agree: even when Michigan was starting to pull away at the end of the first half, I never got the feeling that Iowa was necessarily playing poorly. Iowa has a good team that should probably, in my opinion, make the tournament. It's simply one of those things that makes you laugh and shrug your shoulders like MJ after nailing that three against Portland:
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There's nothing else you can say: the man feels it. This game was basically Michigan just constantly shrugging its shoulders with a sly grin on its face.
Just past the three minute mark in the first half, Mitch McGary swatted an Aaron White dunk attempt at the rim, sending THJ flashing down the right side of the floor in transition with Burke following on the left side. Hardaway dished to Burke at around the free throw line extended, and Trey finished at the rim for two.
This sequence put Michigan up 33-29 and forced Iowa to call a timeout, where coach Fran McCaffery could be seen looking as exasperated as a coach can look in a game down by just four in the first half. I have no idea what he was telling White in the huddle, and I'm honestly not sure what he could say.
Everything thereafter was a mere formality; after a sequence of events like that, the 4-point lead might as well have been 40. Iowa scored on its next three possessions out of the timeout, but Michigan countered with (click below to enhance, enhance, enhance):
Naturally, Michigan ended the half with a buzzer beating layup from GRIII. Iowa scored 35 in the first half, had some success in transition and hit some outside shots. On the road, that's a great half against almost every team in the country.
The thing is, it seems that it will take more than just mere greatness to knock off this 2012-13 Michigan team. This will likely be repeated as often as "Nik Stauskas hit a three," but the best thing in all of this is the fact that Michigan is only going to get better. This is a notion that I can't quite comprehend at this point in time.
After the Beilein hire (and Michigan's first few tournament defeats), there was hackneyed, irritating chatter about Michigan's so called "ceiling" under Beilein and his brand of basketball. Thus far this season, Michigan's ceiling has been blown right off, leaving a clear view of the cosmos for all to see.