It wasn’t easy for the Iowa Hawkeyes (12-8, 4-5) in their quest to get back over .500 in conference against a meandering Michigan Wolverines squad (7-13, 2-7). They used a surge around halftime (8-2 before the break, 10-0 out of it) to pull ahead and never look back in an 88-78 win. Payton Sandfort tied a career high with 26 points on 10/14 shooting including 6/8 from deep and six boards. Tony Perkins continued his great run of play with 24 points on 9/12 shooting, five assists, and three steals.
Defensively, Iowa shored up in the second half, holding the Wolverines to 34 points on 28% shooting. Rebounding remains a struggle for this team - Michigan had 13 offensive rebounds, 10 in the second half - but Iowa rallied well to limit the damage and gave up just 10 second chance points.
Great bounce back from Sandfort
Sandfort was targeted after Iowa’s loss to Maryland (most notably by himself) after yielding an uncontested layup in the waning seconds of the game. To come up the way he did.... just big time. Iowa struggled in prior games scoring inside of 5:00 and he became The Guy with 7 of Iowa’s final 11 points and the last two baskets. I absolutely LOVED his isolation against Tarris Reed, Jr where he blew past him for a bucket in the lane. Just an incredible amount of confidence.
His performance came with a heavy heart though, as he revealed his grandmother passed the day of the Maryland game. This news provides a different backdrop to his teary pledge to himself & teammates on Wednesday.
Owen Freeman continues push for Freshman of the Year
It looked like it could be a long night for Freeman, as Reed took it right to the Hawkeye with a couple early baskets, including a powerful dunk. The freshman settled into the game by blocking Reed and then making back-to-back dunks for the Hawkeyes. He finished with 15 points & 9 rebounds with three blocks. He played 36 minutes as Ben Krikke battled foul trouble of his own and Fran had to lean on the freshman. He also went 5/5 from free throws as Iowa was a perfect 18/18 overall.
There are still some growing pains but the activity & ability he provides continue to be a huge boon to this team & program.
Ladji Dembele returns
The other freshman big had an ... interesting 11 minutes on the court. First off, he didn’t look like he had a gnarly ankle injury a week earlier. In a span of 2:22, he had an offensive rebound, jumper against Michigan’s zone, errant three against Michigan, and an intentional foul on Reed. “Gordy Howe hat trick”-y, in my opinion. He had a block in the second half and two quick fouls but overall...I kind of liked his minutes! Iowa just has not had a tantalizing prospect who combines the athleticism alongside “no no no yes!” that we get from this kid. When the game slows down for him, watch out. I’m buying stock.
In his second game after an injury, I thought Patrick McCaffery looked active in his bench role. Sure, he went just 1/5 from the field but he really didn’t take anything away from the game in his time on the floor. I thought he was active enough as a rebounder - he had just one but did not leak out like he tends to do - and used his length well on defense. Iowa extended their lead to 10 down the stretch with him on the floor alongside Josh Dix, Perkins, Sandfort, and Freeman.
Again, this wasn’t a particularly good Michigan team but it was a road win against a team Iowa had lost to earlier in the season. The Maryland loss looks like the anomaly among the last six performances and the Hawks have five very winnable games coming up. The first is against a ... spotty ... Hoosier squad who are riding a three game losing streak and also sit at 4-5 in conference. Just a yucky conference in a yucky year for men’s college basketball.
Next up: Tuesday, 1/30 at Indiana, 6:00p CT on Big Ten Network