IOWA CITY, Iowa — Despite coming within one point of a different outcome, unranked Michigan broke the Hawkeyes’ nine-game winning streak, 65-63, in a last-second thriller inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena Wednesday night. It was the Big Ten Conference opener for both teams.
“Obviously it’s a frustrating way to start our Big Ten season,” Iowa Head Coach Steve Alford said. “I think it’s my responsibility to make sure the team was ready, and they obviously weren’t ready. I take full responsibility for that.”
The Hawkeyes (No. 14 AP; No. 15 ESPN/USA Today) held the Wolverines without a basket for the opening four minutes of the game, but freshman Ronald Coleman nailed two 3-pointers to propel Michigan into a lead it wouldn’t relinquish.
“I just think we came out and played lazy and played flat,” sophomore transfer Adam Haluska said. “I think everybody could tell that we didn’t have the energy that we usually come out with, and that’s too bad because it cost us.”
Michigan nailed 7-of-11 3-pointers in the first half, sparked by the return of junior Daniel Horton who went 2-of-2 from beyond the arc and was the team’s second-leading scorer with 13 points in 26 minutes.
Brent Petway scored a team-high 14 points.
“We’re just very proud of our team and a win here against one of the hotter teams in the country tonight,” Michigan Coach Tommy Amaker said.
“Daniel Horton’s play gave us a shot in the arm. He felt like he was capable of playing, and I can’t believe he was capable of 26 minutes,” he added. “I was shocked to see that at the end of the game. He never seemed like he was hurting, and I never would have expected him to play this much and I never would have expected him to play this well.”
Alford said Horton’s return was the difference in Michigan’s 3-point shooting. The Wolverines came into game ranked last in the Big Ten for 3-pointers.
“They came in making four, and Horton did play and he made two,” Alford said. “You take Horton out of the equation, and they really make five. And they’ve been making four.”
Horton said he just wanted to fit in after missing the last six games.
“I just wanted to come in and contribute,” he said. “I just wanted to come in and keep up because they’ve been playing so well since I’ve been out. I just wanted to fit in, and I hit a couple of shots early. I think the rest of the guys fed off them.”
Alford didn’t think perimeter shooting was the key part of the game, despite the fact that they helped Michigan get out to as much as a 14-point lead to close the first half 44-30.
“I really thought the difference in the game was their ability to offensively rebound and defensively rebound better than we did,” he said. “We didn’t shoot the ball. You look at every starter, and every starter is below 50 percent. We haven’t had that all year.”
Michigan out-rebounded Iowa 40-28 and nabbed 10 more defensive boards than the Hawkeyes.
Iowa, however, managed to rebound from the first-half deficit and bring the game to within one point three times during the second half. The Hawkeyes held Michigan to 35 percent from the field and just 21 points in the second half.
“When you have a bad shooting night, you have to rely on your defense, and I thought in the second half we really guarded,” Alford said. “We didn’t guard the first half, and in the Big Ten you can’t guard for 20 minutes you have to guard for 40.”
The Hawkeyes scored 14 unanswered points and capitalized off of two Michigan turnovers and five personal fouls midway through the second half, sparked by a 3-pointer and two free throws by Haluska.
Holding off an Iowa comeback was a major turning point for Michigan, according to Horton.
“We withstood a couple of runs, and that was a big thing because the last three or four times we played them we’ve always had big leads and they’ve always come back,” Horton said. “That’s the type of team they are. They never quit; they always keep fighting. We tried to withstand that last run they put on and hang on.”
But Iowa’s problems at the perimeter didn’t just include Michigan’s hot shooting, but its own inability to shoot from beyond the arc. The Hawkeyes’ went 0-for-8 in the first half, but a 3-pointer from point guard Jeff Horner helped Iowa get to within one with just 32 seconds left on the clock.
Free throws by John Andrews stretched Michigan’s lead back out to three, and a foul by Dion Harris left Iowa an opportunity to tie the game with two seconds left on the clock.
Pierre Pierce, who had a game-high 15 points, went to the line but missed his first shot and all but guaranteed a Michigan win.
Alford said he didn’t know why his team came out flat after 13 games that launched Iowa into the national spotlight – going from a team that didn’t even receive votes in the major polls to a top 20 program in just less than two months.
“That’s hard, and I guess that’s the trick,” Alford said. “That’s the first time I really felt like we were out of it. We had some really uncharacteristic things.”
Barry Pump, hawkeyesports.com