WHEWWWWW, BUDDY. Iowa came into today's game at Carver-Hawkeye basically needing a win to justify its lofty status in the conference and nation, and it exceeded all but the wildest expectations in a whistle-to-whistle whipping of No. 10 Michigan, 85-67.
Roy Devyn Marble was the pacesetter, hitting three fast threes to open up Iowa's scoring on the game. Marble continued to hit six of nine 3s in the first half en route to 22 points.
But even though Marble was quiet (by design) in the second half, Iowa instead widened the lead and put the game out of reach. The lead reached 72-45 in the second stanza, and Iowa spent over 10 minutes of the second half ahead by 20+ points until a Zak Irvin 3 in the last minute pushed the game to a deceptively close 18-point margin.
God, it's fun to say that about an Iowa win over a Top 10 team.
Today's 18-point victory was also Iowa's largest vs. an AP Top 10 team since beating No. 2 Missouri by 18 on Dec 15, 2001. #Hawkeyes— Matt Benson (@mbenson6) February 8, 2014
The difference between this win and Tuesday's dispiriting loss to Ohio State was simple: outside shooting. Iowa was 10-17 on the game, which is slightly better than the 2-16 it managed against OSU. That's not just dumb luck—Ohio State played great defense on the outside, and Michigan, as a zone team, simply does not deny the perimeter at anywhere near the same priority. But for all you want to say about Iowa's effort level outpacing Michigan's (and it did), the fact of hitting nearly 50% more threes than against OSU was, by far, the biggest factor.
And yet it was clear that Iowa wanted this game in a way that Michigan didn't, and even if the outside shot wasn't falling at a ludicrous rate, Iowa's ability to control possessions on both sides of the glass and taking care of the ball pushed this game so far in the Hawkeyes' favor that it would have taken a miraculous shooting display by the Wolverines to win this one.
The Wolverines did not have a miraculous shooting display.
Nik Stauskas remained in a funk from the outside, finishing with 10 points on 3-6 (1-3 3-point) shooting and generally being a non-factor in the Michigan offense. Iowa hounded him with smaller guards who were more capable of beating screens rather than trying to send taller shot deniers at him, and here was the type of game where it was plainly evident how valuable Josh Oglesby is even when he's not draining 3s; Oglesby's perimeter defense was smothering today.
Iowa dominated the boards, registering 15 offensive rebounds on 35 chances (a 42.9% rate) while allowing just 9 of 32 offensive boards for Michigan—the majority of which came with the game out of reach. Meanwhile, Iowa didn't allow a turnover in the second half until 6:13 remained in the game, capping a 17:38 stretch of play without giving the ball away. In that stretch, the Hawkeyes forced eight Michigan turnovers and grew their lead from 11 to 25. This is not a coincidence.
Most importantly, Iowa got back to its identity of a lethal transition team, which had not been the case in the recent 2-3 slide in conference play:
#Iowa is being outscored on the fast break by an average of 8.0-5.4 over the last five games. Was outscoring opponents 10.6-6.1 in first 18— Jordan Garretson (@jordangarretson) February 8, 2014
Spurred by Marble's quick trigger, Iowa racked up nearly 20 points in transition today, and Michigan didn't have an answer. That transition game also led to Adam Woodbury THROWING IT DOWN WITH AUTHORITY AND THEN TELLING THE HATERS WHAT TO DO NO SERIOUSLY IT HAPPENED:
All right, buddy. You play like that in transition all the time and I promise the haters disappear in a heartbeat.
Woodbury is improving, most certainly. His best ally, whether he understands it or not, is Gabriel Olaseni; the rapid ascension of LONDON BALLING has basically forced Woodbury to step his own game up and match his ridiculous 7'1" frame and athleticism. That transition jam is something Woodbury's always been physically capable of, but now it's a matter of doing it consistently, and that is a must for the big man, because Olaseni's consistency is there.
And good heavens, what a day for Olaseni. Nine points, four boards, three monstrous blocks and only one foul—while drawing three shooting fouls of his own and never turning the ball over. It's getting to the point where Iowa has a center you have to avoid on the floor for all 40 minutes (except if Kyle Meyer is out there but if Meyer's playing the game has long since passed viability), and that is the type of dynamic that can help Iowa against the stronger teams it'll face come March.
Mike Gesell was masterful once again: eight assists to one turnover, several brilliant passes, 10 points and one particularly cocksure 3-pointer from the top of the key in direct response to Caris Levert's four-point play that threatened to put the Wolverines right back into contention. Marble was the man of the match without a doubt, but that one shot by Gesell was as big a statement as any of Marble's, including the bomb that ended the first half and pushed the halftime tally to 43-27.
We have zero complaints about today. It wasn't perfect, but it was awfully damn close, and it was a welcome reminder that, oh yeah, Iowa can run with basically anyone in the damn nation. It's a signature win right on par with winning at Ohio State, the sort of thing a selection committee will notice and push a team up a seed or two for accomplishing. Massive, massive win. We'll take a few more, thank you.