It was supposed to be a blowout, and that’s exactly what it ended up being.
No. 22 Michigan steamrolled Iowa on Wednesday night, 74-59, to continue improving their NCAA Tournament resume. The win improved the Wolverines to 21-7 overall and 10-5 in the Big Ten, while Iowa dropped their fourth straight game to fall to 12-16 overall and 3-12 in league play.
Iowa jumped out to a quick start, leading 9-2 early in the first half. However, from that point on the Wolverines dominated. The Wolverines built up a 13-point lead heading into halftime and never let the Hawkeyes make it a game in the second half.
This game went basically as we expected, however, there are still some things we can take away from this matchup. Here are a few notes and thoughts on Michigan’s victory.
What We Learned:
1) Robinson has found his stroke
Mo Wagner, Charles Matthews and Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman are the three primary Wolverines scoring threats, however, the true difference-maker could very well be Duncan Robinson.
Robinson exploded on Wednesday with 18 points — all on three-point shots — off the bench to lead the Wolverines in scoring. The senior guard made 6-of-8 three-point attempts against the Hawkeyes, including three straight in the second half to end any chance of an Iowa comeback.
Robinson was equally impressive in the Wolverines’ victory over Wisconsin on Sunday, making four more three-point attempts for 16 points. He has made 10-of-15 three-point attempts in the last two games and by no coincidence Michigan has dominated both games. Robinson is the x-factor that can lift Michigan from just being a NCAA Tournament team to a squad that can make a deep run. If he keeps hitting shots at this pace, the Wolverines have another exciting March ahead of them.
2) Sturdy defense tops explosive offense
Entering this game we knew something had to give when it came to Michigan’s tough-nosed defense against the Hawkeyes high-scoring offense. It was proven that defense beats offense.
Michigan boasts one of the Big Ten’s — and nation’s, for that matter — defenses and they again showcased it against Iowa. The Wolverines were able to hold Iowa to only 59 points on 52 field goal attempts — which is their second lowest point total of the season The Hawkeyes finished the game shooting 48.1 percent, but were forced into 16 turnovers — which played a big factor in how this game turned out.
Iowa by no means is a good team, but they have proven this year they can score. Their offense ranks third in the Big Ten, and just last week they scored 93 against Michigan State. So this defensive showing by Michigan should be recognized and celebrated because not many teams have been able to play this well on that end of the floor against Iowa.
3) Garza has bright future
As we all know by now, this year hasn’t featured too many bright spots for the Hawkeyes. However, one thing to look fondly on is the emergence of freshman forward Luka Garza.
Garza dropped 22 points on 10-of-16 from the field to lead the Hawkeyes in scoring against the Wolverines. He also grabbed six rebounds and recorded one block on Wednesday night. The impressive performance has been part of an upward trend for Garza over the past two months. In the 12 games since Iowa last played Michigan on Jan. 2, Garza has averaged 12.8 points and just over six rebounds per game. That’s pretty darn good for a freshman banging it out in the post in the Big Ten.
Like I said before, this year hasn’t turned out like the Hawkeyes expected. I personally thought they were a NCAA Tournament bubble team at the beginning of the season, and boy was I wrong. But there are still some pieces here that should make fans optimistic for the future. One of those pieces is Garza, and if he continues to improve his game then he’ll be an All-Big Ten player at some point down the road.
This was a game Michigan was supposed to win with ease, and that’s exactly what they did. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t recognize some positives from the Wolverines’ performance. Another strong game from Robinson and impressive defensive showing are very exciting for Michigan. Both of those elements could result in another year of March success for the Wolverines.
For Iowa, it was their third straight matchup against a ranked opponent and they simply again just didn’t have enough to win the game. The Hawkeyes are young and that’s something to remember about this team as they finish up this disappointing season. There are some players on this roster I really like, and I believe Garza has the tools to become a great Big Ten big man. It’s rough right now, but better days are on the way for Iowa.