INDIANAPOLIS, Ind — It was far from a prize fight, but Michigan connected on enough jabs early and held on for a 55-47 victory over the University of Iowa on Thursday in a first-round battle in the Big Ten Conference men’s basketball tournament inside Conseco Fieldhouse.
The over-achieving group of Hawkeyes conclude the season 13-19 overall. Michigan (10-21) advances to play top-seeded Wisconsin tomorrow at 11 a.m. (CT).
“At the start of the game we had three or four good looks, we don’t make them and Michigan does,” UI head coach Todd Lickliter said. “Basically it was an even game from there on out, but that initial run was what kept us at bay.”
A glaring need for the Iowa team — consistent outside shooting — reared its ugly head as the Hawkeyes struggled through a 16-minute, 57-second second-half field goal drought and finished the game shooting 31.9 percent from the field (15 of 47). Iowa was 5 of 25 from the field during the final 20 minutes. The Hawkeyes committed 15 turnovers and made just 2 of 17 three-point field goals. Michigan scored 17 points off Iowa turnovers.
UI junior Cyrus Tate battled to the end, compiling his third double-double of the season with 16 points and 11 rebounds. He went to the free throw line 17 times, making 10. Jake Kelly scored 11 points (5 of 11 field goals), Tony Freeman added nine. Seth Gorney pulled down eight rebounds.
“It was real tough,” Tate said. “We could have still hung in there, but I don’t think we answered in the correct way and Michigan won. We should be able to respond next year. We have to answer next year and prove people wrong.”
“Cyrus really worked,” Lickliter said. “I was really impressed. He plays with a big heart, he’s a team guy and he plays the right way.”
The lid was not only on the Hawkeye basket in the second half. Iowa’s tenacious defense kept Michigan from scoring a point for 10:04 in the second half — from 15:48 to 5:44. Manny Harris, the game’s leading scorer with 19 points, gave Michigan a 46-36 lead by making two free throws with 5:44 remaining. The Wolverines grabbed their biggest lead — 44-29 — following a three-point field goal from DeShawn Sims with 15:48 remaining.
Michigan controlled the momentum early in the second period. Anthony Wright opened the second half with a three-point field goal, giving the Wolverines a 37-25 lead. Sims followed with a field goal after an Iowa turnover, giving Michigan a 39-25 advantage.
Justin Johnson and Freeman, who combined for 155 three-point field goals this season, made just 1 of 14 against Michigan.
The loss ends the collegiate careers for Gorney, Johnson and Kurt Looby.
“This was a great first step for us to come into a first-round game and try to gather momentum for tomorrow and the future,” Michigan head coach John Beilein said. “This was a huge momentum boost for us. Our defense was a constant for us. We couldn’t score, but we stopped.”
From the opening tip Michigan pushed the pace and ran the floor at every opportunity. Iowa took its lone lead of the game, 2-0, when Kelly drove through the middle of the lane for a layup. Freeman tied the score at 4-4 with a one-handed floating jumper with 15:30 left in the first half before the Wolverines dominated from beyond the arc (5 of 13 for the half). Kelvin Grady and Wright made back-to-back three-pointers to give Michigan a 10-4 edge and the Hawkeyes were playing catch-up for the remainder of the half.
Iowa couldn’t find an answer for Michigan’s hustle and activity. When Sims made a three-pointer with 6:44 left in the half, Michigan had its largest lead at 25-11. The Hawkeyes then refused to settle for jump shots, moving the ball inside and making a run behind the strength of Tate. During a 73-second span from 4:28 to 3:15, Tate was fouled three times in the low post and scored five points.
Iowa cut the Wolverine lead to 27-20 and had the ball with 2 ½ minutes left in the half. That’s when Michigan’s Zack Gibson began frustrating the Hawkeyes by grabbing an offensive rebound, dunking the ball and converting a conventional three-point play to put Michigan on top, 30-23. Gibson struck again at the end of the half, converting an offensive rebound for an easy put-back to give the Wolverines a 34-25 lead at intermission.
Iowa shot 45.5 percent from the field in the first half (10 of22), making 2 of 7 three-point field goals and 3 of 5 free throws. The Hawkeyes were out-rebounded 17-12, with just one offensive rebound. Meanwhile, the Wolverines secured five offensive boards. Iowa committed eight turnovers in the first 20 minutes.
Tate and Kelly both scored seven points in the first half, followed by Johnson with five and Freeman with four.
Iowa is 0-3 all-time against Michigan in the Big Ten Tournament. Only Michigan and Wisconsin (2-1) have winning records against the Hawkeyes in the Big Ten Tournament.
“It was a very trying season,” Lickliter said. “It was just really difficult, but these guys were a pleasure to be around. It was just disappointing to be eighth in the league and to be knocked out on the first day.”