The prelude of “it’s house money” when going up against a top three team on their home floor always feels like a safe way to hedge emotions until you see what it means to be a top three team in 2021.
Maybe the #9 Iowa Hawkeyes’ (17-7, 11-6) fortunes will change when they try and see what it means to be a top four team because after a 79-57 loss to the #3 Michigan Wolverines (17-1, 12-1), it’s clear the national title race is a three horse race.
It didn’t always feel this way as the Hawks played a pretty good first half despite taking plenty of lumps, including a non-contact right leg injury to Jack Nunge. Though they shot just 40% in the half, strong shooting from Jordan Bohannon and CJ Fredrick sustained the offense to the tune of 7/8 and 18 of Iowa’s 29 first half points.
The defense was good, holding Michigan to 32 points, even if they allowed 10 offensive rebounds and 9 second chance points, including a last second putback.
The story of the first half was absolutely Luka Garza vs. Hunter Dickinson. Though Garza forced multiple fouls on Michigan’s big men, Dickinson provided as stout as defense as LG has faced so far this season. He was held to 7 points on 3/11 shooting in the frame, and 16 points on 6/19 overall.
In the second half, Michigan stepped on the gas by way of Franz Wagner who scored 9 quick points (he finished with a game high 21 points), including a three on which Connor McCaffery tweaked his ankle.
At that point, it was a 43-37 Michigan lead.
Following a couple Joe Wieskamp free throws, Michigan stretched the lead to 11. Five Keegan Murray points mixed with a Wieskamp dunk made it a 7 point game with momentum.
That’s when the pros came to play.
Juwan Howard called a timeout despite an impending media stoppage at 11:59. I don’t know if he saw Pat McCaffery on the sideline to check in for Wieskamp but the decision stopped Iowa’s momentum dead in its tracks.
The Hawks came out of the break with Ahron Ulis, Bohannon, Pat, Murray, and Garza. Michigan went with three starters plus Chaundree Brown & Brandon Johns and finished Iowa over the next four minutes as Wolverines went on a 9-0 run to stretch it to a 16-point game.
And that was that.
Iowa never got it closer than 14 points and Michigan looked like the national contender the Hawkeyes aspire to be.
If there’s one takeaway, it’s the difference between Iowa, who has plenty of very very very good but flawed players and Michigan who has maybe one player (the short and streaky Eli Brooks) who’s a bit flawed.
Everybody can do everything on that team. No shame in losing to them. On to the next one.
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