We've been looking for a sign or a hint that maybe, just maybe the 2016 Iowa basketball swoon isn't a carbon copy of the soul-crushing 2014 Iowa basketball swoon. The jury's still out on how the tournaments will play out for Iowa basketball over the next few weeks, but... we'll take this win as a much-needed sign of optimism.
Michigan made the first basket of the game, a Duncan Robinson 3-pointer 10 seconds after the tip, but Jarrod Uthoff scored the next five points off a jumper and a three-pointer. Iowa never trailed the rest of the night. Iowa opened up a 14-5 lead to start the game and while Michigan made runs, they never got closer than 24-23 after a Abdur-Rahkman layup. Iowa answered that bucket with another Uthoff 3. Iowa went into the break with a 36-30 lead that was cause for some cautious optimism. They played well in the first half and had a lead to show for it. Of course, we've been down this road before in recent weeks, too...
Michigan never made much of a dent in Iowa's lead until they went on a 10-0 run to cut it from 59-44 to 59-54 with 6 minutes to play. You could be forgiven for thinking "here we go again..." And, to be fair, it's not quite like Iowa had an immediate response to that Michigan run -- they missed their next three shots. But Michigan missed two shots (and had another blocked by Uthoff) during that stretch and turned the ball over. Gesell turned that turnover into a layup at the other end. Anthony Clemmons hit a three-pointer on Iowa's next possession and all of a sudden Iowa was actually making shots at the end of a game again -- something they haven't done since (seemingly? probably?) January. Jarrod Uthoff added an old-fashioned three-point play and two made free throws and Anthony Clemmons made a pair of free throws as well, which helped hold off Michigan.
Jarrod Uthoff was the man of the match for Iowa, dropping 29 points on the Wolverines with 11/19 shooting, including 4/10 from deep. He also had 7 rebounds and was an absolute menace on the defensive end with 4 steals and 3 blocks. He came out hot and his strong shooting helped Iowa build the first half lead they would never relinquish. He also chipped in with key buckets (particularly late) in the second half to keep Iowa in the lead. This was the Uthoff we've been missing for several weeks and his return was very welcome.
Anthony Clemmons added 12 points on 4/7 shooting (2/3 from deep) and added 3 rebounds and 2 assists. Peter Jok was Iowa's other double figure scorer (10 points), but he went 4/14 from the field, including 2/10 from the outside. His shooting woes have been a key part of Iowa's struggles over the last few weeks and while they didn't hurt Iowa tonight, let's certainly hope he regains his shooting form by next weekend in Indianapolis. Mike Gesell didn't contribute a lot in terms of scoring (6 points 3/7 shooting) but his passing was very much on point -- he had 11 assists and did a smart job of directing Iowa's offense all night. And last but not least, Adam Woodbury had a strong bounce-back performance as well, just missing out on a double-double with 9 points on 4/7 shooting and 11 rebounds. (It was not a throwback performance for the Iowa bench -- Uhl, Baer, Wagner, and Williams combined for 5 points and 4 rebounds in 32 minutes -- but they didn't shoot Iowa out of the game or anything, either.)
With the win Iowa locks up a 12-6 record in conference play, their second straight season with 12 Big Ten wins. They haven't done that since the late '80s.
Iowa with 12+ Big Ten wins in consecutive seasons:— Matt Benson (@mbenson6) March 6, 2016
1980-81 (13) & 1981-82 (12)
1986-87 (14) & 1987-88 (12)
2014-15 (12) & 2015-16 (12)
They also locked up a season sweep over Michigan to go with their season sweep over Michigan State. It's been a really long time since they did that.
The win moved Iowa into 5th place in the Big Ten heading into the final day of the regular season. Iowa is also the #5 seed in the Big Ten Tournament as things stand at the moment. Maryland plays at Indiana and Purdue hosts Wisconsin tomorrow and both those games will have an impact on Iowa's Big Ten Tournament seeding fate. If Maryland and Purdue win, Iowa will be the #4 seed, get a double-bye in the Big Ten Tournament, and be able to rest up until Friday. If Maryland and Purdue split their games or they both lose, then Iowa will be the #5 seed and they'll open play on Thursday. They'll play the winner of Wednesday's #12 versus #13 game, which looks like Illinois-Minnesota at the moment. But we'll worry about that tomorrow night. For tonight, let's just breathe a sight of relief -- the losing streak is over. Hallelujah.