IOWA CITY, Iowa — Iowa avenged last month’s six-point loss to Michigan with a “gritty” come from behind win, 69-61, in front of Carver-Hawkeye Arena’s first sellout crowd of the season on Saturday.
“I thought it was just a gritty performance out of our guys. I thought they really hung in there,” Iowa coach Steve Alford said.
At Crisler Arena on Jan. 28, Michigan shot 53.4 percent from the field and got 90 points off the Hawkeyes. On Saturday, Iowa held the Wolverines to 32.1 percent and 61 points, while beating them in the turnover battle as well. In fact, sophomore guard Pierre Pierce, who leads the team in turnovers, had an 8:3 assist-to-turnover ratio — as a team, Michigan had eight assists the entire game.”That’s a drastic turnaround,” Alford said. “I’m very appreciative of the effort from our guys.”
Alford’s squad improves to 13-9 overall and 6-5 in the conference, while Michigan drops to 13-8 overall and 4-6 in the league. The Wolverines are 1-5 in Big Ten road games this season.
Sophomore point guard Jeff Horner went 6-of-11 from the field and 6-of-7 at the line for 20 points, his sixth game at 20 or more — he scored only five the last time out, and senior guard Brody Boyd added 14 in 39 minutes, including two 3-pointers.
Boyd’s first 3 came at the 12:10 mark of the second half with a beautiful inside-out play launched by Horner who drove it down the right side of the lane, and then managed to send it back out to a wide-open Boyd. The three points gave Iowa its first lead since a 32-28 halftime deficit.
“(Coaches) have been talking all year about driving gas into the zone, and we started doing that and we got some open looks,” said Horner. “It was a very good win today.”
After that, Michigan started to shy away from the zone defense that took the Hawkeyes out of the game toward the end of the first half.
In the first half, Iowa built a nine point lead but let it slip away with an 18-5 Wolverine run in the final 8 ? minutes. Michigan held the Hawkeyes to a jumper by Glen Worley and a layup by Pierce from the field and one free throw by Greg Brunner with a strong zone defense.
“It worked very well for us in the first half,” Michigan coach Tommy Amaker said. “When we go zone, we use it to change-up and disrupt some rhythm.”
In the same time period, Dion Harris and Daniel Horton scored two 3-pointers to spark the run. Harris had only three 3-pointers in the game and a free throw, going 3-of-10 from the field. Horton was held to that long ball the rest of the way by Pierce.
The Wolverine’s leading scorer was sophomore Lester Abram with 13 points. Bernard Robinson Jr., the team’s leading scorer this season, was held to nine by Horner.
Horner on Robinson and Pierce on Horton was the switch from the first game that Coach Alford said was the “big difference” between the games.
“I thought the big difference was how we guarded Horton and Robinson versus how we did it in the first game,” he said. “I thought those matchups were very key. I thought Jeff and Pierre really guarded well.”
Horton essentially being out of the game before he actually left when he fouled out with 4:06 on the clock hurt the Wolverines according to Amaker.
“If you want to look at our team, Daniel and Dion were 4-for-20,” he said. “Daniel was in foul trouble the whole game, and I thought that was disruptive to his whole game and certainly for our team.”
After Boyd’s 3-pointer in the second half, Iowa mounted a 20-7 run that gave them a game-high lead of 11 with a little over five minutes to go. In that 6 ?-minute span, Iowa was perfect 6-of-6 from the field and 4-of-5 from the line.
“Anytime we’re making 3s,” Boyd said, “we’re going to be a solid team. But it wasn’t that tonight, it was our defense that really got it.”
Iowa’s lead dropped to five with a little over a minute to go, but reserve guard Kurt Spurgeon, a walk-on, nailed two free throws after a foul by freshman Brent Petway to keep the Hawkeyes’ confidence. Spurgeon also grabbed four boards in his five minutes.
“I can’t think of anything harder really,” Alford said, “to be sitting on the bench the whole game and then to come in and get two clutch free throws in a big game. That’s a hard role to play. I thought he was real productive for us.”
Spurgeon didn’t bat an eye at the task however.
“I was confident in myself, and I shoot free throws well, and I always have,” he said. “Luckily, we stopped them from getting that big run.”
“I knew Spurge was going to knock them down, he always does,” Boyd said. “He’s always at the top of the leaderboard in free throws in practices all the time. I know he’s a senior, and he has confidence and would knock them down.”
Iowa next plays at Ohio State on Wednesday. Since the Hawkeyes played Northern Illinois on Dec. 6, every win has been followed by a loss, and Worley, a senior forward, knows that’s a pattern that needs to be broken.
“It was definitely a good win today, and we have to consider our little pattern to go Win-Loss, Win-Loss,” he said. “We have to get streak going and get a few in a row.”
HAWK NOTE: Senior Jared Reiner got off crutches last Thursday with the aid of a walking boot. While the center has newfound mobility, his condition will still keep him sidelined indefinitely. Reiner underwent surgery to repair a stress fracture on Jan. 16.
Barry Pump, hawkeyesports.com