Iowa and Michigan entered this game both excelling in two main areas on offense: 1) Shooting; and 2) Holding onto the basketball. Both teams followed through on the first part of the promise on Sunday, as both finished with an eFG% North of 55%. Only one team managed to follow through on the second norm, though, and that team was Iowa, who only turned the ball over four times all game and not one single time in the second half. John Beilein's squad, meanwhile, turned the ball over 13 times, which was huge, considering their were only 64 possessions in this game.
And speaking of the low number of possessions, the second half had a whopping 29 of them, as both teams were able to slow the tempo down with their zone defenses. But if you thought that would make the game boring, think again. Michigan still managed 38 points in those 29 possessions, while Iowa put up an astounding 44. That's right, Iowa scored 44 points in just 29 possessions after halftime, which is a rate of 1.53 points per possession (PPP). That's Iowa's best half of the season. It's better than the Marquette and Iowa State first halves, and it's a number that is higher than the 1.44 PPP Iowa totaled in the second half comeback over Purdue. Of course, you could definitely argue that Iowa's 1.44 PPP against Purdue was more impressive, considering the venue and the strength of Purdue's defense relative to Michigan's. But, still, 1.53 PPP is insane against a Big Ten opponent not named "Rutgers" or "Minnesota" this season. And it was all made possible thanks to Iowa's blazing shooting and their knack for hanging onto the ball. A combination Michigan uncharacteristically failed to achieve on Sunday.
Four Factors in Review
First Half Points Per Possession: Iowa 1.10, Michigan 0.95
First Half Possessions: 35
Second Half Points Per Possession: Iowa 1.53 (!), Michigan 1.32
Second Half Possessions: 29
Total Points Per Possession: Iowa 1.29, Michigan 1.12
Total Possessions: 64
|Iowa||2pt Near Rim||2pt Jumper||3Pt FG||FT|
|Michigan||2pt Near Rim||2pt Jumper||3Pt FG||FT|
Shooting played a huge role in the outcome of this game, and luckily Iowa was able to outshoot the #3 team in eFG% in the country on Sunday. That's not something Iowa could have done the last few years. But this team is different. This team is loaded with shooters that can put the ball in the basket in a variety of ways. And that proved true against Michigan.
Coming into this game, Iowa seemed to know what they wanted to do from the beginning. They knew Michigan's weakness was in the post, and they tried to exploit it. The Hawkeyes jumped out to an 11-0 lead in the span of a few minutes, and 6 of those 11 points came in the paint. Offense down low continued to be a focal point for Iowa, who finished the first half with 20 points in the paint. Adam Woodbury and Jarrod Uthoff combined for 14 of those points in the paint, and were getting such easy looks near the rim they forced John Beilein to bring a second big man off the bench and go away from his four-guard lineup for a decent chunk of the first half.
Michigan also got most of their first half points in the paint, as 18 of their 33 before the break came from inside. In fact, Iowa held them to just 9 three-point attempts in the first half, and allowed them to make only 2. And this was not just bad luck, this was Iowa's defense forcing Michigan to move away from their perimeter-oriented game plan. Iowa's aggressive hedging on ball screens forced Michigan to take what Iowa would give them and that was the roll to the basket and not the three-point shot. (Woodbury's dunk even came on a turnover where he stripped Dawkins as he came off a ball screen.) And even when Michigan did attempt a three in the first half, Iowa usually had one of their long arms in a shooter's face. Michigan really only had about two good looks from the perimeter in the first half, and that's how many they made.
The second half was a different story. Iowa shot a few more jump shots than they did in the first half, but those shots fell. As did their three-pointers, which went from 3-11 shooting in the first half to 7-11 in the second half. And these jump shots falling were extremely important, as Michigan threw a 1-3-1 zone at Iowa in the second half, and Iowa responded by finding the open shooter in the corner and knocking down the shot.
The Wolverines also came out of the locker room at halftime, and seemed intent on shooting threes and no longer taking what Iowa gave them in the screen and roll game. They attempted 19 of their 28 second half field goals from downtown, and made 10 of them. They got some open looks by showing better ball rotation on the perimeter, but they also made some difficult shots with defenders in their face (as did Iowa). Iowa went to a zone of their own in the second half, right after Michigan started off the half with a run. It wasn't totally successful from a points per possession allowed point of view, but it did force turnovers just about anytime Michigan tried to penetrate it. And those turnovers mixed with Iowa's hot shooting on the day are what won this game for the Hawkeyes.
Michigan rarely turns the ball over; they are like Iowa in that regard this season. But they weren't like Iowa in that regard on Sunday, as the Hawkeyes were able to force one on every fifth Wolverine possession. And "force" is the key word here, because Iowa's long arms stole the ball 8 times in the game. When Iowa played man defense, it was their aggressive hedging on the ball-handler, when they played zone, it was their ability to collapse on penetration.
On offense, Iowa did not return the favor. The Hawkeyes had 4 turnovers in the first half, but cut that down to a big fat 0 in the second half. This marked the second time this season in which Iowa has not turned the ball over in a half (the other being in the second half of the Drake game), and it was their second lowest turnover rate on the season for an entire game, just missing the 5.2% mark against Drake.
More importantly, the Hawkeyes capitalized on these turnovers and outscored Michigan 16-6 off of them. Technically, Michigan had the better ratio of points off turnover to turnovers, but Iowa's sheer volume was the difference in this game. And it was made even more important based on the fact that Iowa was out-rebounded by the Wolverines. The Hawkeyes ended the game with 5 more scoring opportunities than Michigan, and it was thanks to turnovers, and not rebounds.
As I just mentioned, Iowa lost the battle on the glass against Michigan. The Wolverines allowed Iowa to grab just under a quarter of their misses for the entire game. And that number was consistent through both halves. Michigan also outperformed their season average on the offensive glass (thanks to the second half) by grabbing a third of their own missed shots. They also turned those second chances into points, as they outscored Iowa 12-8 in that department. Some of Michigan's second half rebounding came from Iowa being in a zone, some of it came from long rebounds off of Michigan's barrage of three-point attempts, and two of them came on loose balls that went out of bounds off Iowa.
No matter how they happened, though, Michigan won the rebounding category and it helped offset the turnover disparity a bit. Fortunately, it wasn't able to completely offset it and Iowa still won this game by 11.
Free Throw Rate
This category was pretty well neglected in this game. And that was to be expected, seeing how both teams are 25th and 26th in the nation at keeping opponents off the free throw line and both teams are in the 300s nationally when it comes to visiting there. Both teams made their free throws when they ended up on the stripe, but this category played a very small part in this contest.
Overall: Iowa Won 2 of 4 Factors
Jarrod Uthoff had himself an afternoon, you guys. Iowa's star forward poured in 23 points on 9-20 shooting (2-4 from long range), while also contributing 4 rebounds, 1 block , 1 assist, 1 steal, and no turnovers. 9-20 shooting doesn't sound very efficient for Uthoff, but it was a 50% eFG%, and that's not terrible. Uthoff missed some bunnies around the rim early on, which lowered his efficiency on the day. But Michigan still had no answer for him inside, outside, or anywhere on the court. After this game, he is now averaging 19.6 points per game in conference play, and has to be considered the front-runner for the league's best player. He also further separated himself from the pack as the #2 guy on Kenpom's Player of the Year list. The odds of catching Buddy Hield are likely microscopic, but Uthoff did gain a little ground on him after this one.
But if Jarrod Uthoff was Batman in this game, Peter Jok was Robin -- and I don't mean that in a diminishing way. Because Jok was superb and gave Iowa some much-needed second half offense. He had himself another high volume, high efficiency night for the second straight game, giving Iowa 16 total points, 14 of which, he scored after halftime. He was Iowa's main three-point threat, hitting 4-6 on the night, and making 6 of 11 total shots from the field. He had a number of key three-pointers down the stretch to keep Michigan at bay and crush any type of momentum the Wolverines thought they had.
His biggest stretch, perhaps, started with just under 11 minutes left to play in the game. Iowa was only up 53-52 at this point and the shot clock was dwindling on Iowa's offensive possession, but Jok rose up and hit a contested three near the top of the arc to push Iowa's lead to 5. A few minutes later, Jok poked the ball loose as Zak Irvin tried to penetrate the zone, Nicholas Baer picked up the loose ball, found Jok in transition, who then found a wide open Anthony Clemmons for a transition three. And that wasn't all, the very next possession, Iowa utilized some great ball movement around the perimeter to find Peter Jok in the corner of Michigan's 1-3-1. Jok, of course, drained the shot and stretched the lead to 11. Jok's all-around improvement this season has been key, and it again was his offensive and defensive abilities that helped Iowa whether the storm of Michigan's second half three-point shooting.
Lest we forget Adam Woodbury, though, who took advantage of Michigan's lack of an inside presence, making 5 of his 7 field goal attempts and both tries from the line to give him 12 points on the night. Woodbury also took advantage of Michigan's lack of communication on defense, as various mix-ups on switches left Woodbury wide open off the pick and roll throughout the first half. And, again, he and Uthoff forced Beilein to put a second big man on the court in the first half, which helped take away from Michigan's three-point potential. Woodbury also grabbed 6 rebounds (2 offensive), 2 assists, 0 turnovers, and 1 steal that led to a breakaway dunk that made the fans at Carver-Hawkeye Arena explode.
Iowa's starting guards also played well against Michigan. Mike Gesell only scored 4 points and didn't shoot particularly well, but he again dished out 7 assists and continues to be on pace to shatter Andre Woolridge's single-season record sooner rather than later. He also played excellent defense on Derrick Walton Jr., who finished with 16 points, but only shot 5-14 from the floor (3-11 from downtown) and many of the shots he made were contested.
Clemmons, meanwhile, also didn't score a whole lot. But he did hit a key three down the stretch, and he also passed out 6 assists on the day. Anytime you can get 13 assists from your two starting guards, you are doing something right.
Not to be left out, Iowa's bench play was key to this victory. Dom Uhl and Nicholas Baer both played 20 minutes, while Ahmad Wagner saw 11, and all three combined for 22 of Iowa's 82 points. Uhl continued to knock down threes at an insane clip, including a cold-blooded one where he drained it in his defender's face with about 6 minutes left in the game. Baer also gave Iowa 7 points and some nice defense, while Wagner tallied 5 points and 3 rebounds. And this is what separates this Iowa team from years past. McCaffery was able to give his best player a long rest in the second half because Iowa's offense was humming with a lineup of Gesell/Clemmons, Jok, Baer, Uhl, and Wagner. If you can, try and picture yourself before the season. Now, how do you think you would have felt about Iowa playing that lineup for about 6 minutes in the second half of a Big Ten game that wasn't a blowout? Most of us would have held our breath and prayed that the other team wouldn't take the lead and increase it to a couple of possessions. Instead, that lineup -- without Uthoff and Woodbury -- took a 2-point lead and extended it to 11. And that's a big part of why Iowa is so improved this season. Because the bench can go toe-to-toe with a top 15 offense in crunch time and come out on top.
So Iowa continues to be unscathed in conference play, despite playing four of their first five Big Ten games against teams rated 31 or higher by Kenpom. And that's what makes this 5-0 start so damn impressive. They aren't doing it against the bottom of the Big Ten, they are doing it against Big Ten title contenders.
The Hawkeyes get a little respite, as they head to Rutgers on Thursday. I'm not saying the Hawks should overlook them for Purdue on Sunday, but Kenpom is projecting a 20-point win on the road. After Thursday, though, Iowa has to play at home against Purdue and then on the road at Maryland in the span of about five days. They have set themselves up nicely with this 5-0 start, but if they can manage only one loss or even no losses between now and next Thursday, then the sky is the limit for this team. Because the back end of this schedule lightens up after Maryland, and the Hawkeyes are poised to make a run at a Big Ten title.