Game 18: Michigan at Iowa Recap

Dylan Burkhardt
Michigan Iowa Basketball

It’s tough to win road games in the Big Ten. It’s nearly impossible to win road games in the Big Ten with the sort of uninspiring performance that Michigan demonstrated on Saturday afternoon. The Wolverines were never able to find an offensive rhythm and were outworked and outplayed by Iowa for 40 minutes. Michigan made a second half run, cutting the lead to six points in the second half, but it wasn’t nearly enough as Iowa cruised to a 75-59 victory.

Earlier in the week, Michigan beat Northwestern in spite of a horrendous shooting performance because it controlled the offensive glass, didn’t turn the ball over and made free throws. The Wolverines still shot the ball poorly – 46% effective field goal percentage – in Iowa City but failed to make a difference in any of those other areas of the game. Michigan turned the ball over on a quarter of its first half possessions (16% TO Rate for the game), was a non-factor on the offensive glass and made just 11-of-17 free throw attempts. The Wolverines attempted 60% of their field goals from three point range but connected on just 8-of-31 triples.

This wasn’t a game where Michigan’s offense was running smoothly and missing open chances, it was very much the opposite. Everything about the Wolverine offense looked forced and simple passes were an adventure. The turnovers were painful in the first half and Michigan just couldn’t seem to be able to string possessions together without bad field goal attempts mixed in. Sitting Burke in the first half certainly hurt but Michigan’s offense didn’t look all that great with Burke in the lineup either. Iowa threw various defenses – three quarter court traps, zones and basic man-to-man – at Michigan and the Wolverines were unable to find a flow, instead settling for ill advised jumpshots.

Michigan was a minute away from surviving the first half with Trey Burke for 13 minutes only down five points. Iowa closed the half on a 5-0 run, certainly a Key Play, and Michigan was never able to recover. The two fouls and sit debate is a debate worthy of its own post but Burke didn’t pick up his third foul until very late in the game, is called for 1.8 fouls per 40 minutes (6th best in the Big Ten), has twice as many games with no fouls (6) than four fouls (3) and has never fouled out in his career. I don’t think the decision cost Michigan the game by any stretch but I’d like to see John Beilein take a little more risks with foul trouble considering the lack of depth on this roster.

Compounding Michigan’s offensive problems was what was arguably the Wolverines’ worst defensive performance of the season, given the competition. Iowa scored 1.21 points per possession, more than Michigan has surrendered this season against any team other than Duke. This was a good but not an extraordinary shooting performance from the Hawkeyes, who made 48% of their twos and 42% of their threes for a 51% effective field goal percentage. Iowa was solid in each of the other three factors as well. The Hawkeyes got to the line, attempting 28 free throws, didn’t turn the ball over and were effective on the offensive glass, grabbing 36% of their missed shots.

Matt Gatens, 4-of-7 on threes, had all but one of Iowa’s made three point shots but Iowa’s wings and bigs were effective around the basket. Zach McCabe (4-of-5 on twos), Devyn Marble (5-of-11 on twos), and Melsahn Basabe (3-of-5 on twos) all killed Michigan inside.

It sounds cliché to say that Michigan looked flat but, simply put, Michigan looked flat. Iowa beat the Wolverines to numerous fifty-fifty balls, won the battles on the offensive glass and just seemed to play with more purpose. Every Michigan run or spurt was answered by big basket, steal or offensive rebound by the Hawkeyes.

The loss is disheartening but there are still 13 regular season games left to be played. Every Big Ten game is difficult – Ohio State, Michigan State, Indiana and Purdue all lost this week – and success in the league is as much about responding to adversity as anything else. Michigan’s back is against the wall headed into a Tuesday night showdown with Michigan State (who also lost on the road at Northwestern today) as it enters the most difficult stretch of schedule of the season. It’s worth noting that this team has responded well after losses (beating UCLA, Iowa State and Wisconsin) but Tuesday’s game could be a defining moment of the season.


Player Bullets

  • Tim Hardaway Jr.: Michigan isn’t going to win games consistently when Hardaway goes 2-of-13 (0-8 3pt) from the field. Michigan needs its superstar to make big plays but he seemed to force shots at times. It’s almost as if Hardaway is trying to recapture the magic of last season, when he seemed to hit big shot after big shot late in games, but gets frustrated when it doesn’t happen. Then again, he’s one of the few players that can truly create his own shot so Michigan needs those attempts.
  • Zack Novak: Novak provided about all you could ask for: 14 points on 5-of-10 (4-8 3pt) shooting with eight rebounds. His tendency to try to take charges got the best of him for the second year in a row at Iowa, last year he fouled out of the game on five attempts to draw a charge. This year he caught the bad end of some 50-50 calls yet again.
  • Jordan Morgan: Morgan only had one shot attempt, mostly because of how Iowa defended the pick-and-roll. Burke couldn’t find him with the pass over Iowa’s taller defenders and Morgan didn’t have a great effort on the glass either, four rebounds in 27 minutes.
  • Trey Burke: Burke struggled with the hard hedge on the screen and roll for the second straight game and got most of his points late when Iowa had drastically altered its defense. He hit a pair of early threes when Michigan’s offense was really sputtering and then sat with two fouls for 13 minutes. You can bet that Big Ten teams are going to continue to hard hedge on the screen and roll and it will be up to Burke to figure out a way to connect with the rolling big man.
  • Evan Smotrycz: Smotrycz is in a major offensive slump and its affecting his entire game. After an 0-for-6 performance today he’s now made just 1 of his last 19 shots but his effort on the defensive end was perhaps more disappointing. His demeanor on the court is maddening at times and reached a boiling  point when he drifted down the floor before Michigan secured a defensive rebound and never ran back on defense. Michigan needs Evan’s production, especially with weak depth in the frontcourt, so he’s going to have to get it figured out.
  • Stu Douglass: Douglass has quietly been pretty solid throughout Big Ten play. He had nine points on 3-of-6 (2-3 3pt) shooting but didn’t have any assists despite playing significant minutes at point guard in the first half. He’s obviously not a point guard but he’s been consistent shooting the ball and defending.
  • Matt Vogrich: Vogrich had just one shot attempt, a three point shot from far too deep, in 18 minutes and grabbed three rebounds.
  • Blake McLimans: McLimans had four points and four rebounds in seven minutes and really did some nice things. It would be nice to have Horford on the bench, especially defensively, but McLimans seems to be improving game-by-game.
  • Eso Akunne: Five minutes and an assist in spot first half playing time. Akunne isn’t going to be a game changer and he struggled defending Marble late.
  • ColinNer

    ARGH!! Just wasn’t our day today

  • eddieben

    Even with Burke in the game and eight junk points down the stretch, UM was still outscored in the second half. This game had nothing to do with the decision to sit Burke in the first half. This game was about the teams inability to get easy looks over taller guards, the failure to get the ball to Morgan in the lane for the same reasons, and unbelievably low-energy help defense.

    In the end, all it means is that the squad will have to steal some road wins against stiffer competition later in the year. This team is only a 1/2 game out of first in conference, with a big game coming up to change that. Protect home court and steal wins on the road has always been the mantra to success in the B1G. I’ll start worrying when home losses mount and there aren’t any roadies left to steal.

  • Aaron

    Smotty is in a funk and he’s letting it get to his head. He got really high when he was averaging 15 and now he’s questioning whether that was all a fluke. Well, was it? I don’t think so, I just think he needs a nice game to get him back on track. But he’s proven to be a head case and he really needs a good game to get his confidence back. That’s all he needs, some confidence. Coach B, get this kid to a sports psychiatrist cause he’s a damn talented kid who happens to be really down on himself. And who happens to be a liability on the court right now. 

  • Buford

    Frustrating game to watch– you’d think the seniors would be able to convince the team that Iowa posed a real threat, but I wonder if some players weren’t looking past the game a bit to the big upcoming matchup with MSU

  • jemblue

    Was fatigue an issue?  We’ve played five games in 13 days.  If so, I hope we find our legs for Tuesday.  

    • It’s only going to get worse if it is. Including this game, six of eight on the road without more than a couple days off in between any game. 

      • Reid

        Yes, this is very “cool story bro,” but my dad talked to Dave Brandon at the auto show preview last night, and he said that Bellien was pissed that we were scheduled to have so many games so tight, while our opponents have more days off leading into our matchups.  Not that this is any excuse for us losing, but I think that fatigue is starting to show.  

        • sane1

          Then why schedule a road game at Arkansas on our only off weekend during the B10 grind? 

          • ChocoJoe

            I think I remember reading a Beilein interview somewhere that it’s just how it worked out.. isn’t it part of a home and home series?

          • sane1

            We have control over non-conference scheduling. B1G schedule is out of our control. Just say “no”. Find an opponent who can play us in December.

  • MJoeBlue

     I was really disappointed in the effort today.  Shots may not be falling, but, you can always give maximum effort.  There were very few hustle plays all game.  They just did not seem ready to play.

  • ZRL

    I’m curious as to why Beilein has continued to run the pick and roll so much this year. The p&r was never a big part of Beilein’s offense until last year, when he decided to incorporate it because Dmo was so good at running it. However, it’s become obvious that Burke is not a good p&r player yet we continue to run it a ton.

    • The pick and roll has been very successful this year up until the last couple games when teams really started hedging hard. Michigan just needs to adjust.

  • Ghoward44

    The bigs are too soft and its too far from the basket to hit them with the pass. He doesnt trust them catching it. 

  • ChathaM

    A few thoughts on a game I’d just as soon forget…

    I agree with everyone who said that there was a lack of effort at times. This seemed like the prototypical college road game no-show. It’s not an excuse, but if you look around the country, this type of thing happens all the time. So, there’s no need to overreact, but it’s still disappointing to see.

    I thought that Iowa’s defensive game plan was clearly to accept giving UM looks from the 3-point line. They, like NW on Wed, were focussed on not allowing UM backdoor looks (didn’t stop our guys from trying to force a few passes to backdoor cutters who weren’t open…sheesh) and not allowing penetration off of ballscreens (as several have mentioned). So, it’s not a surprise that there were 31 3-point attempts, as I believe that’s what the defence was giving UM.

    Like a lot of others here, Smotrycz worries me. I agree that his body language is really bad over the past two games. Aside from the occasional hustle play, he’s a real liability. Of course, he can recover, but I have to wonder whether he’ll start to lose minutes to McLimans if he continues to shoot horribly. Evan’s no 5 star athlete, so he simply has to make shots to be productive.

    I’m not at all worried about Hardaway declaring for the draft. There are too many holes in his game.

    I wonder whether Beilein is regretting scheduling the Arkansas game next weekend (assuming he had a choice). This team looks like it’s in need of an extended rest.  

  • Wayman Britt

    If we want to steal one or two of the next four games one of the role players (Smot, Morgan, Vogrich, Blake) need to have a big game.  In general Trey, Stu & Novak have been playing okay.

    Most top teams get one of their non-stars to have a very productive game or two to steal a game.  By productive I mean scoring 8 or 10 or more points over their average or getting 5 or more boards over average.

    I hope somebody is up to the challenge.

  • umnyc

    I think the script was written for this one after the sub par performance in the NW game. I’m not too concerned with the loss because winning a road game in the B1G is going to be tough no matter who the opponent is. I’m actually way more concerned about the signs of physical and mental fatigue being exhibited by this team going into the meaty part of our schedule. Burke and Novak are the only gamers we have on this team – everyone else seems to fall into a stupor when the slightest thing goes wrong. When we’re at home this isn’t as much of an issue because they can feed off the crowd, but on the road its a liability. I was fine with Smot not being on the floor today, not only was he playing poorly, but he seemed to be draining energy from the team. Furthermore, I actually thought the energy McLimans was bringing was great and felt Coach should have left him on the floor for some major minutes to mitigate the length of Iowa. Without Horford, McLimans is all we have as a big reserve so we shouldn’t be afraid to use him. For better or worse he adds the perimeter dimension that Morgan will never have. And with Smot struggling, it will help keep defenses honest. I agree that Tuesday’s game is huge. Hope the boys get some sleep and come out with the same energy we saw against the badgers.

  • Jim

    I really liked McLimas play today. He really made a difference in the second half when the lead was cut to 6. Iowa went on a run after he went to the bench. Not sure there is any positive correlation there, but as I say really liked the way he played.

    • MJoeBlue

      I agree..McLimans and Vogrich were both in when Michigan made a little push in the second half.  I thought they deserved more minutes.  They provided some energy when the rest of the team seemed flat.

  • gpsimms

    Its tough to complain about stus lack of assists. He set people up just to have them miss quite a few times. Not that he had a great game or anything. No one had a great game.

  • Ace_maker4

    Most every loss comes by way of the same thing; our lack of ability to
    generate anything in the paint. The best way to stop a cold streak is
    having someone who can get to the rim and finish and/or get to the line,
    Michigan just simply does not do it enough.

    The pick & roll
    has been gone the last 2 games as has the curl and roll with THjr. Both
    plays force the defense to at least pay attention in the paint and allow
    for far more open 3’s at the arc.

    I think when Smot gets cold
    they need to get his fanny in the paint as well, his post game is far
    better than it was last year and against teams like Northwestern and
    Iowa who do not have a ton of length maybe a few bunnies down low and/or
    free throws would help his confidence.

    All said next year that will change as a high quality big man who is not allergic to the paint is on the way.