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Takeaways from Michigan’s road win over Iowa

Tarris Reed Jr. had his best game as a Wolverine.

NCAA Basketball: Michigan at Iowa Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

The Michigan Wolverines have struggled mightily over the last few weeks, but they picked up a blowout win in Iowa City, beating the Hawkeyes handily, 90-80.

This game was as much of a must-win as you can have in mid-December for both teams.

The Wolverines had lost five of their last six games entering this one, including a loss to the Indiana Hoosiers to begin conference play. Like Michigan, the Hawkeyes lost a lot of key players from last year’s squad, including their two leading scorers in Kris Murray and Filip Rebraca. Iowa was 5-4 entering this game, with its two games earlier in the week being a 19-point loss to No. 4 Purdue and a 25-point loss to Iowa State.

In a battle between two struggling teams, the Wolverines came out on top. This is the type of win that can help Michigan get their season back on track.

Here are some takeaways from the victory.

Tarris Reed Jr.’s best game in a Michigan uniform

After getting off to a slow start this season and struggling in the last few games, sophomore center Tarris Reed Jr. had his best game of the season.

He had 12 points in the first-half alone, good for a season-high and a career-high. The big man excelled on both ends, finishing this one with 19 points to go along with six rebounds and two blocks.

He did a great job getting positioning down low and using his size to his advantage. He also played with energy on both ends and made most of his free throws, going 5/7 from the line after working on improving from the charity stripe in the off-season.

Between this game and last year’s overtime loss, where Reed stepped up off the bench and guarded Murray for stretches, the big man always seems to play well in Iowa City. A performance like this has got to be a huge confidence boost for the young big man.

Michigan didn’t need to rely on McDaniel or Nkamhoua

Too often this season, the Wolverines have relied on two of their best players — point guard Dug McDaniel and forward Olivier Nkamhoua — to carry them offensively.

That wasn’t the case at all in this one; Michigan’s two leading scorers were held scoreless in that first half, combining to go 0-of-8 from the field.

They both woke up in the second half, with Nkamhoua scoring five points on an 11-0 run over a two-minute span a few minutes into the half, capped off by finishing an alley-oop from McDaniel in transition. He finished this one with 12 points and 10 rebounds.

While the shot wasn’t falling often for McDaniel (11 points on 4-of-12 shooting), he did a good job facilitating, especially in that second half. He assisted on all four buckets on that 11-0 run.

The Wolverines were able to get quality shots by moving the ball well and making an effort to get paint touches. Winning a game like this without your two leading scorers doing much is a huge confidence boost for the rest of the rotation.

T-Will & Burnett step up

While McDaniel and Nkamhoua struggled offensively in this one, the rest of the starters picked up the slack.

Nimari Burnett was solid offensively in this one, scoring 14 points in this one. He turned the ball over once, and did a good job navigating the half-court pressure and the zones the Hawkeyes threw at the Wolverines.

Michigan needed Terrance Williams II to step in this one, and he delivered, scoring eight points in the first half and 13 points in the game.

10 games into this season, he’s a whole different player compared to what we saw last season. His tweaked jump shot has improved his three-point percentage drastically (25 percent to around 39 percent after this one) and he seems much more confident.

There are times when he dribbles the ball a little too much, and he’s been part of Michigan’s on-ball defensive struggles, but there’s a lot to like about what the senior has been providing for the Wolverines.

Good defense by the Wolverines, but a few too many second chance opportunities

This was one of the best defensive performances by the Wolverines all season long. They weren’t perfect, but they rotated much better, stood their ground in the paint, and forced Iowa into some tough shots.

The Iowa Hawkeyes were freezing cold from three (25 percent), never got into a rhythm offensively, and lost their head coach in the second half, thanks to the famously short temper of Fran McCaffery.

As dominant as Michigan was in this one, if I have to nitpick, I’d say the Wolverines needed to do a better job on the glass in this one. They still won the battle on the boards (41-32), but Iowa still grabbed 11 offensive rebounds and scored 10 points on those second chance opportunities.

The Hawkeyes aren’t known for their size or rebounding, but they corralled a good amount of their own misses in this one. Michigan’s got to box out better, especially in Big Ten games like this.

A note on Llewellyn

After making his season debut against Oregon and playing against Indiana, Llewellyn was unavailable for this game. The Wolverines stuck with a seven-man rotation for most of this one, aside from Youssef Khayat playing for less than a minute in that first half.

A team spokesperson confirmed to Maize n Brew before the game Llewellyn was dealing with knee soreness and the Wolverines were holding him out as a precaution. Recovery after tearing your ACL is no joke, and we hope to see Llewellyn back on the court soon.

Up next

Time for the Wolverines to build on this win. After two straight Big Ten games, the Wolverines aren’t in action again until next weekend, when they host the Eastern Michigan Eagles on Saturday, Dec. 16. That game is set to tip-off at 2:30 p.m. and will be on BTN.