Like Michigan's season, this was a game of runs and droughts, intermittent bright spots and run-ins with stark reality.
The Wolverines started strong, building a 12-6 lead, but a 5-plus minute scoring drought saw the Hawkeyes pull back into it. Later in the half, two straight Iowa dunks -- the second a strong Jarrod Uthoff drive right past Kam Chatman down the heart of the lane -- put the visitors ahead, 25-21. A high-low pass from Adam Woodbury to Aaron White extended the lead to six, as Michigan continued to struggle on the offensive end, underscored by two airballed threes on consecutive possessions.
Irvin et al hit a few jumpers in the opening minutes, but once they stopped falling, Iowa flexed its muscles, abusing Michigan with its size advantage. This continued throughout the remainder of the game. Unable to unlock Iowa's zone or do much to stop the onslaught of the talented Hawkeye frontcourters, Michigan fell, 72-54, to fall to 13-10 (6-5) on the season.
Once again, Iowa picked apart the Michigan defense, resulting in yet another White dunk. Down eight with under a minute left in the half, Michigan needed something; a frantic possession resulted in a fadeaway 17-footer from Max Bielfeldt that didn't hit room.
Iowa kept doing work in the paint. Its run ballooned to 12-0, its lead 10.
For all of Michigan's ability to fight through injuries, one thing it hasn't been able to combat is the extended drought. The Wolverines failed to score in the final seven minutes of the half -- for that to happen even once should be notable event, but it has occurred on numerous occasions this season.
Down 31-21 heading into the break, the old cliche held sway: the first four minutes of the second would prove key.
Out of the break, Iowa upped its run to 14-0 after the Hawkeyes masterfully passed around the zone to find an open Uthoff for a long two.
Finally, Aubrey Dawkins split the top two of Iowa's 2-3 zone, getting to the line for a pair of free throws. He buried both, finally ending Michigan's scoring drought, but there was still far too much work to do.
A Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman floater ended the field goal drought, and Michigan finally got a stop at the other end, but couldn't build on that sequence. Irvin launched a bad three, and Iowa's Uthoff responded by burying a triple at the other end.
Shortly thereafter, Michigan turned it over, which eventually led to a Mike Gesell drive to the rim for two. Michigan was now down 40-25; if they weren't flatlining, they were just about there.
But, after hitting its sixth of its first eight second-half shots, upping the lead to 18, a comeback did not seem to be in the offing tonight, even with Aaron White picking up two quick technical fouls -- however, he actually was not ejected, as his second, the result of hanging on the rim a little too long, was deemed a sort of minor technical foul (which I didn't even know existed).
But even on a night where everything seemed to be going wrong, Michigan showed a little life. A 7-0 run cut the deficit to 11, giving Michigan a brief spark.
Dawkins helped keep that spark going, burying a triple and then another, cutting the deficit to nine with eight minutes to play, making it the first time in the half Michigan trailed by just single digits.
Just like that, Uthoff drained the nascent enthusiasm out of the gym with a triple and an emphatic block on the defensive end. With another make and a stop, Michigan appeared ready to actually make a serious comeback, but Uthoff and the Hawkeyes shut the door with the efficient ease of a 10-2 run.
Coming in, it was well understood that Michigan was at a serious disadvantage from a size perspective. However, for the second year in a row, the Hawkeyes hit Michigan up for their worst defensive performance of the season (albeit last year it happened at Carver-Hawkeye Arena).
Dawkins led the Wolverines with 16 points on 5-of-8 shooting. Iowa's entire starting five scored in the double digits, with Uthoff scoring 16 on 7-for-10 shooting. The Hawkeyes shot 62 percent from the field to Michigan's 39 percent. Iowa only missed 19 shots all game, but they rebounded nine of those, good for an offensive rebounding percentage of 47 percent.
Of course, the roster is what it is, but the inability to do much of anything against the zone for extended stretches was frustrating, but not surprising, as was Iowa's overall domination of the paint.
That is where things stand right now; bad sequences of events happen, but they're not surprising. Next year is another story, but for now, the Wolverines will continue to have to make very much out of very little.