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Michigan 67, Iowa 85: Start To Finish

The Wolverines traveled to Iowa City today for the first of two critical road games in four days. Unfortunately for John Beilein and Co., things did not go nearly as well as the first meeting with the Hawkeyes.

That facial expression just about says it all.
That facial expression just about says it all.
Matthew Holst

The Hawkeyes came into this game having lost their last two games at Carver-Hawkeye Arena and desperate for a marquee win. Michigan, meanwhile, looked to remain tied at the top of the Big Ten standings, at least until Tuesday's trip to Columbus.

Iowa's desperation showed early on, as the Hawkeyes jumped out to an early 13-4 lead, paced by Roy Devyn Marble's 3-for-4 start from beyond the arc. The Hawkeyes played like they often do: fast in transition and big on the glass. Fran McCaffery's squad picked up three offensive rebounds early, something that Michigan would have to prevent going forward.

Michigan's offense struggled early. Through five minutes, all they could generate was a Glenn Robinson alley-oop and a Spike Albrecht elbow jumper.

Caris LeVert stemmed the tide a bit, converting on a 4-point play and finishing a layup in transition after an Iowa turnover, cutting the Iowa lead to 16-10.

But the Hawkeye offense never relented. Iowa hit Michigan in transition, easy buckets in the paint and on the glass. When Michigan tried a 2-3 zone, Mike Gesell calmly buried a triple from the top of the key.

Down 24-10 with under 10 minutes to play in the first half, things looked grim for the Wolverines. Nik Stauskas and Robinson combined for two points through over 12 minutes of play. Once again, as in Durham and Bloomington, LeVert was left to essentially become the whole offense.

Luckily for John Beilein, the Wolverines rattled off an 8-0 run to cut the lead to eight with just under four minutes to play. Zak Irvin continued his hot shooting ways, going 4-for-6 in the first half for 10 points.

But that momentum was short-lived. Marble buried another three in the final seconds of the half, his sixth, to give Iowa a 43-29 lead entering the break.

As well as LeVert and Irvin played, Michigan would desperately needed Stauskas and Robinson to show up in the second half in order to even have a chance to win the game.

More importantly, however, Marble gave Michigan the Yogi Ferrell treatment in the first half, dropping 22 points on an 85 percent eFG%. As a team, Iowa scored at a pace of 1.40 PPP--I don't care if you're this year's Portland Trailblazers, you just can't win playing defense like that.

Michigan hoped to come out of the second half with renewed enthusiasm, but that didn't appear to be the case early on. Iowa built the lead up to 18 by the first media timeout of the second half. The Wolverines simply looked defeated and listless, and unless they made a mini-run soon, were in danger of being blown out in a big way.

Jarrod Uthoff hit a corner three to put the Hawkeyes up 61-41 at the 12-minute mark. On the ensuing possession, Stauskas tried to make a move at the top of the key but lost the ball; simply put, it wasn't Stauskas's day. With that said, Stauskas being shut down is no longer an outlier, as it was when the Duke and IU games were really the only games fitting that bill. With an inability to break his smaller, quicker man down off the dribble, or, in most cases, even receive the ball in the first place, Stauskas has just about been eliminated from Michigan's offense of late.

When Michigan didn't make a run through the second half's first 10 minutes, it was obvious it would never come. An Adam Woodbury dunk in transition gave Iowa a 71-45 with 7:41 to play.

Unlike the first meeting, Iowa obliterated Michigan in fast break points and had rebounded 47 percent of its misses (by the final media timeout, when I stopped tracking it). In short, Iowa did what they would like to do, and Michigan had no answer for it on either end of the floor.

Sometimes games like this happen. Even last year's Michigan team took an ugly loss in East Lansing. Is it faith-shaking? Sure. But there are still seven more games to play. Iowa is very good, despite its recent losses at home, and a win like this for them seemed likely to happen at some point.

The Big Ten is still there for the taking, but not if the Wolverines--namely Nik Stauskas and Glenn Robinson--don't get things figured out. Robinson is what he is, but the way teams have recently shut him down can no longer be considered some sort of anomaly.

The Wolverines won't have time to dwell on this loss, as they head to Columbus on Tuesday. After that, the Wolverines get Wisconsin and Michigan State at the Crisler Center.

Michigan's season could go into a tailspin these next few weeks, or they could steady themselves and carry some momentum into March. Either way, for a team that's 9-2 in the Big Ten, the Wolverines need to find some answers, fast.