Game 23: Iowa at Michigan Recap

Dylan Burkhardt

After four encouraging performances since losing Caris LeVert, Michigan was blown out by 18 points at home on Thursday evening.

The Wolverines started their Thursday night matchup efficiently, scoring 14 points in their first eight possessions, but then a couple critical tweaks by Iowa coach Fran McCaffery stifled the Wolverines. McCaffery went to the 2-3 zone on defense – holding Michigan to five points in the final 11:15 of the first half  – and started throwing the ball into the paint on every possession.

The Wolverines led Iowa 21-19 with 6:58 to play in the first half and then failed to score to close out the half, heading to the locker room all but defeated, trailing 31-21.

We’ve seen this time and again from this team this season, with and without Caris LeVert. The Wolverines have now had seven field goal droughts longer than seven minutes and they’ve lost every game: Villanova, NJIT, Eastern Michigan, SMU, Purdue and Ohio State for those keeping track.

In the second half, Iowa went for the jugular and quickly extended its lead to 18 points. The Wolverines were able to mount something of a comeback thanks to two technical fouls on Aaron White (which didn’t result in ejection due to the second being for hanging on the rim) and hot shooting from Aubrey Dawkins. But once a Dawkins three cut the lead to nine with 8:07 to play, the Hawkeyes responded with a 12-2 run to put the game to bed.


Michigan’s offense was crisp through the first few minutes of the game. The ball moved, different people were involved, and shots were falling. Then Iowa switched to its 2-3 zone and the game changed completely — a move that John Beilein said the Wolverines didn’t expect.

The Wolverines scored 14 points in the first eight possessions of the game and then managed only 40 points in the next 44 possessions of play. Michigan looked lifeless and lethargic against Iowa’s 2-3 zone and rarely got the ball in the middle of the zone, instead settling for contested and deep jumpers from the perimeter.

Michigan’s defense looked helpless against Iowa’s length, patience and shot making ability all night. When the dust settled, this was the worst per-possession defensive performance from a John Beilein coached team at Michigan. The Wolverines gave up 1.38 points per trip as Iowa made 32 shots, grabbed nine offensive rebounds and turned the ball over only six times in a 52 possession game.

The Hawkeyes dominated the game inside – outscoring U-M 42-16 in the paint – and only missed more than two shots in a row once. Michigan tried a few zone looks (both 1-3-1 and 2-3), but they didn’t work. Even when Michigan managed to force a miss, the Hawkeyes usually managed a second chance.

This was a beat down at home and the sort of game that you don’t expect from a quality program under any circumstance. Michigan was 45-4 at home over the past three years and is now just 10-5 within the friendly confines of the Crisler Center. There are games where you just don’t have ‘it’ in any season, but getting run by nearly 20 points in your own building is an embarrassment in the Big Ten.

While the last four games were encouraging, it’s tough to hold onto any of those feelings after such a demoralizing home beatdown. Next up, Michigan heads on the road to Indiana and Illinois – two teams that need wins about as badly as Iowa did on Thursday evening and will smell blood in the water.

Michigan 54, Iowa 72-30

Player Bullets

  • Aubrey Dawkins: Dawkins was really Michigan’s only positive offensively, finishing with 16 points on 5 of 8 (4-7 3pt) shooting for the game. He provided the only offensive spark in the second half and helped cut the lead to single digits, but he was also completely overmatched defensive and on the glass against Iowa’s 6-9 wings.
  • Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman: Abdur-Rahkamn settled for the three a bit too much (1 of 5), but he was 3 of 5 inside the arc and made a few things happen when he was aggressive with the ball. He didn’t seem to be nearly as assertive as he had been in the last several games, but that could have been because he wasn’t as comfortable against the 2-3 zone.
  • Zak Irvin: Irvin has done a good job of making a few positive contributions even when his shot wasn’t falling since LeVert went down, but that wasn’t the case today. He wasn’t good on either end and finished with 7 points on 3 of 10 (1-6 3pt) shooting with 1 rebound and zero assists. He hit a few early shots and then completely disappeared.
  • Spike Albrecht: Michigan has learned a harsh lesson as to how ineffective small guards can be against big 2-3 zones and Albrecht really struggled in this one. He finished with 10 points, five assists and three turnovers in 34 minutes
  • Kam Chatman: Chatman put in a great stretch in the first half with a strong drive, a made mid-range jumper and a nice follow up at the rim. Those early good vibes evaporated as the negative plays started to pile up. Chatman’s most-critical missteps were in the second half when Michigan had just cut the lead to nine points and he failed to grab a defensive rebound, resulting in second chance points for the Hawkeyes, and then missed an ill-advised shot on the other end.
  • Max Bielfeldt: Bielfeldt probably provided the most productive frontcourt minutes among Michigan’s bigs, but it was tough sledding for Michigan on the defensive glass because of Iowa’s height advantage at all three frontcourt spots.
  • Ricky DoyleDoyle had a very quiet performance and he missed his only free throw and only field goal attempt and didn’t grab a defensive rebound in 18 minutes.
  • Mark Donnal: Michigan was outscored by 6 points in the two minutes that Donnal was on the floor.
  • AADave

    We’ve seen this story before. Michigan was just destroyed inside. They were out scored 42-16 in the paint and 33-17 on the boards (9-5 on the offensive boards). That’s the game right there. There’s no way to win when the other team has so many extra second shots and easy lay ins or dunks inside.

    It’s nice to see Rahkman, Dawkins and now Chatman show progress offensively. But unless Michigan finds an answer to their donut hole inside, they will be a lower tier Big Ten team. What’s the answer? Will Doyle become more of a force inside? Will Donnal finally show some toughness and battle more inside? Will Wilson make a difference inside when he returns? Will Chatman step up inside? Right now, I just don’t see any optimistic answers to these questions. And I don’t see any more post talent arriving for two more years.

    Sigh, maybe patience is needed. In the meantime, it would be nice to see even a little progress in the post.

  • Justin

    Looking at the upcoming schedule I see um finishing 16 and 16 on the year. Truly an unacceptable and unforgettable year. That will not get a nit invite and I would not accept the cbi or any other tourney.

    Also at this point I want to really see something out of donnal. He is guy that I wouldn’t mind see playing at ball state. He is a Mac level talent and too soft to play in the big ten. We need recruits ladies and gents. Lets hope this offseason is better than last because it was unforgettable as well.

    • 93Grad

      I would say the same for Chatman. The kid just doesn’t have it.

      • Justin

        Agreed. Doyle is not exactly a stud either. His best is graham brown his worst is mark donnal. We are better than graham Browns now.

        • Justin

          Just imagine what next year will be like if levert leaves this offseason and no new recruits.

          Another year like this year possibly and if that happens I will be furious as should many other fans.

    • AADave

      Given the losses to the NBA, graduation, transfer and injury, I wouldn’t say your projected result is “unacceptable.” It’s not desired but certainly acceptable given the level of talent and experience we have to put on the floor.

      I also wouldn’t give up on younger players like Doyle, Donnal and especially Chatman (as 93grad does). Players need time and experience to develop. Morgan as a redshirt senior is a classic example of what determination and good coaching can produce.

      But I agree that we need to see more from our front court players, more toughness and fight. And we could use some higher ceiling guys inside, difference makers that can alter shots, grab boards and finish at the rim. The only one showing any potential right now is Doyle (Bielfeldt is just not big enough) and he’s extremely raw, a work in progress who is up and down. Donnal may be skilled but we need him to be presence inside and he’s not.

  • Go Blue

    The screens that these big guys set on this team are pathetic.

    • JohnNavarreIsMyHero

      Very little movement today on all accounts. I really don’t get this performance. A lot was on the line and we didn’t seem to care. No energy, no fight, and no passion.

      • Chris De Sana

        Ditto, for most of the shot clock the ball went back and forth between our guards with the other 3 guys standing still with occasional movement by the big trying to establish in the post but we all know that is a waste as the rarely if ever feed the post.

    • Chris De Sana

      Been singing the same tune over and over the screen setting at the top of our offense are offensive.

  • JohnNavarreIsMyHero

    Sorry for the long post, and thanks to those who read it. Feel free to comment on it.

    I made the trip to the game and man was this frustrating to watch. I was thoroughly pumped to see us take another step forward in the right direction and get another win.

    This was a big step back. Michigan looked lifeless. We were whether much alive to make the tournament (8th team out BEFORE the game) believe it or not, so that makes this even more sickening.

    Whether it is by recruiting or by grad transfer or something, we have got to get a guy that we can throw the ball into in the post. Its a shame to watch because we know what Beilein is capable of when he has talent on the floor.

    The only real issue I have ever had with Beilein is that he lets fringe guys go pro to easily. For his sake, he has to be more selfish. I mean GR3 is doing absolutely nothing in the NBA (sure he is getting paid), but there was no doubt that the most likely scenario was him being a early second round pick.

    Just a few thoughts on the players.

    Doyle looks like there is potential, he frequently plays smaller than his 6’9 245 by going down with the ball. He always looks exhausted and is not extremely athletic. Loses his guy on defense too.

    Max makes the most of what talent God has given him. He is a true warrior, but the fact that he is our best big man just shows how slow and how raw Doyle and Donnal are. I can’t really complain too much about him because he wasn’t really expected to be much of a contributor and is doing a solid good. Still too small and limited athletically.

    MAAR – probably part of the gameplan, but I wish he would push the ball up the floor quicker. Honestly, I would be fine with him forcing the ball to the hoop and hoping for a foul.

    Irvin – shot is still off. This is a game where Irvin has to be able to get to the rim. He did it a few times if I recall, but he should be more athletic than Iowa’s white boys.

    Dawkins – the one bright spot – I would say give him the green light to shoot whenever. He needs to get in the middle of that zone to open the edges up.

    Spike – solid, but unspectacular. His shot doesn’t seem consistent like it should be.

    Finally I hate to say it, but I just don’t see it with Donnal. He has been around 2 years now and still doesn’t look strong or assertive. He will have very, very few scattered spots where he gets angry (so to say) and uses his body (that stretch versus SMU comes to mind). But then he reverts back to being passive and basically being just a body on the court (doesn’t score or rebound). I don’t think he has the mentality. He just seems to be along for the ride. Doesn’t really do anything that doesn’t show up in the boxscore either.

    Chatman – seriously WTF – hitting the top of the backboard on that WIDE open three. No one was near him. He also botched a HUGE rebound when we made that run to get it down to 8 – Dawkins was hot and the crowd came alive. He killed the atmosphere of the crowd and team with that play – the team and crowd went lifeless again.

    I wouldn’t be surprised at all if both transfer or our encouraged to look around after the season.

    I still feel like we should have enough talent despite our issues to sneak into the tournament (very low seed type thing). Today it looked like the team wasn’t interested in doing that. And that is very troubling to me.

    • Justin

      Love the post and great insight on the guys. I agree completely. Max is a 4th year junior who is not coming back next year. He isn’t very good. Donnal is a Mac level player. Doyle is a solid backup. Dawkins and maar have a nice ceiling. Spike is spike a good backup pg. We know what Walton and levert are. As for kam, he has had a terrible season.

      With all that said this team just isn’t good and I don’t see anything changing next year. It’s abiut recruiting boys and girls. I don’t care how good jb is at developing g lesser tier talent. This isn’t wvu anymore. This is michigan. We had the fab five. We went to the f4 and e8 and have great facilities and the tradition. We need players. Taking a d3 transfer was a hair raiser and passing on eron harris who will kill us next year is too. Unless things start to change in recruiting. Our best years with jb are behind us. That’s the truth.

      • JohnNavarreIsMyHero

        We need a talented guy to lead these other guys. Morris did it. We had Burke, we had Stauskas, but Levert is just not that type of guy. He is a hell of a talent, but he isn’t a guy who is gonna say f*ck off to the other team like those guys did.

        Here’s the thing for me. What good is it for Beilein to give his blessing and send all these guys to the NBA early. All he is doing is punishing himself in the process and he is left scrambling in April to find replacement because for whatever reason, the highly rated guys he has identified have largely ignored him producing all these first round picks.

        Beilein should be more selfish in this regard. Honestly, I feel like Beilein should get an answer from Levert on what his plans are. Like now. The likely best case scenario draft spot is second half of the first round. Being a second round pick is not out of the question either. To leave early for that is ridiculous. Also, fear of getting injured again should not be an excuse to leave. If you can’t prove you can handle the wear and tear of a college season, the NBA will eat you alive. The NBA is 82 games and grueling. I don’t think Levert has shown he can handle that load quite yet. He is young for his grade and should work on his game.

        • Mattski

          You have some knowledge of what Beilein and Levert have said to each other or not said? Beilein is in no position to order kids to do anything, and we have no real knowledge of his private dealings with players in the past. Generally speaking, we have so little knowledge of all of the variables that players are juggling that opining as to whether they should stay or go/have stayed or gone is little more than a game.

          • JohnNavarreIsMyHero

            Sorry I just took this loss very hard. It really got to me. I wanted this win badly.

            I don’t know the specifics, but it pains me to see Beilein lose to mediocre coaches only because they can’t develop their players into NBA ones.

      • Mattski

        Because. . . you and crystal balls have a special relationship? In their upbeat mode, many people here have spoken rhapsodically about how GREAT we will be next year, finally having a veteran squad, so at the very least–rather than just asserting that we will not be good–you’ve got to tell us who will play, who be gone, etcetera. Clearly, at least one top-notch playmaker needs to enter the scene; and we must have solid big play. But “our best years are behind us”? You have no freaking idea.

        We’ve had so many armchair experts telling us this player or that player sucks on a nightly basis the last few years (the same people often joining the mob, emotional yoyo fashion, to tell us how great they were one or two games later). . . John Beilein’s talent, so far, has been in making a lot of doubters eat their words. We’ve glimpsed the potential in a number of these kids the last few games; last night we saw how young and relatively untutored they remain.

      • A2MIKE

        “Best years behind us?” Really? I hate to attack players or individual posters but you are so negative it is unreal. When LeVert went down you got on here and said Michigan would be lucky to win 7 Big Ten games. How do you feel about that prediction now? And then you get on here and post this garbage. We are the youngest team in the power 5, the absolute youngest. Beilein struck out on a couple guys last year, we will be fine. I actually like what he did, when we struck out on the highly touted guys. He took older, likely to be role players that will stay 4 years and be contributors for all 4 years. Think of Rahk and Dawkins as the new Stu and Novak. In 2 years, when we are in the final four, I am going to remind you of this comment. Last night was awful, don’t get me wrong, but this take, like all of your takes, is so negative that is disingenuous.

  • jakelam2116

    A few rumblings:

    1) Dylan mentioned last night Chatman playing low-level high school ball. I’d say that’s as big reason as any for him not being up to speed at this level except for short bursts. Yes, he was definitely overrated by recruiting services, but the book on him isn’t complete.

    2) Guys should absolutely make what decision is best for them & their families about the NBA & not listen to a single armchair guy or gal out there. Beilein of course can offer his advice, but how can you tell a kid like LaVert, ‘No, pass up millions of dollars. You’re not ready?’ Crazy.

    3) Yep, last night was embarrassing. It’s one thing to lose like that on the road, but to get outplayed in every single possible way on your homecourt is bad. On to Assembly Hall, Michigan’s favorite place…

  • mikey_mac

    It’s almost like the whole team is still suffering from their flu … The zone defense effort was sporadic at best, and Spike was about the only player to hit the floor for any reason other than an ill-advised effort to take a charge.
    Donnal might be on pace for the worst season-long +/- in team history. I feel bad for him right now, as this has been a brutal season for him.
    Last point, UM’s lack of efficient ball movement on offense makes them easy pickings for zone defense. They have struggled all year with it, and without Walton (best or second-best passer on the team), this will be the playbook for walking all over these guys. Fortunately, not many teams have the personnel to pull off zone.

  • bobohle

    I agree with mickey mac. We played much better against Wisconsin’s 3 big front court. At least We didn’t give up layup after layup after layup. This was like the Ohio St game. We will probably face the 2-3 zone every game the rest of the season.

    • JohnNavarreIsMyHero

      I think this game was more of a energy, focus, and intensity issue. We brought that every game from Rutgers until this one. I don’t know why this happened in such a crucial game. But it’s over and time to move on to the next one.

      These guys stepped off the gas and didn’t go balls to the wall. They have to go all out all 40 minutes and get a lot of the the 50/50 balls and calls to go their way. It didn’t happen.

  • Chris De Sana

    I like many of the posters am very frustrated by this game and result, mostly because it seemed like for most of the game the team simply seemed uninterested and put forth minimum effort. Getting beat is one thing but we simply did not show up this time and that is the huge difference between this game and most any I remember during the Stu and Zack years. The seemed to always leave everything on the court no matter the result.

    As for the future is it time to take a hard look at what we have almost regardless of the result?
    – Doyle continues to seem to struggle with his fitness; leave him out there force him into game shape by extending his minutes.
    – Donnal needs to toughen up; leave him out there and let him get eaten up and see how he responds.
    – Try the two big offense especially if teams run the 2-3 zone again where Donnal plays the high post and distributes or takes that mid range foul line jumper. He he fails maybe try Kam at the same spot because we need more length than what we tried last game at that spot.
    – Chatman do we know what we have? Same as above we need let him work through the funk if he does not respond it will tell us a lot.
    – Dawkins seems to have a higher ceiling than Irvin. Split those minutes and even try both at the two guard at times if we want to long with MAAR at the point.
    – MAAR needs to be the starting point guard until Walton gets back. He has shown great upside in regards to his offensive game. He can hit the 3 ball, he finds space in the mid range and he can get to the hoop as well as distribute when he gets in the paint. The added bonus is he is longer and seems stronger than Spike making for fewer bad match ups on Defense as well as easier passing on the Offense.
    – Spike needs to find a way to move to the 6th or 7th spot. We know what he can do and it is limited on both ends of the court. Good option as a back up but not a starter.
    – Max has been a bright spot but he is not the future. Keep him in the rotation but we need to see what the youngers guys have. So fewer minutes unless as mentioned before we go big and he moves to the three or four spot.

    • JohnNavarreIsMyHero

      I would love to see Donnal be used as a mid-range shooter somehow. Honestly I would be cool with him floating around the perimeter. I think he has a pretty pure shot and if we could get him going that would help a lot.