Iowa City, Iowa — In the friendly confines of Crisler Center in January, Michigan’s Nik Stauskas had one of the best games of his career, with 26 points including four 3-pointers against Iowa.
Stauskas found holes in the Hawkeyes’ defense and got to the rim, along when the defense tried to sag off and help guard him, he found teammates and had five assists.
In Saturday’s rematch at Carver-Hawkeye Arena, Iowa flipped the script. The Hawkeyes stifled Stauskas and kept Michigan’s pick-and-roll offense in check, taking an 85-67 victory.
The loss knocks Michigan (17-6, 9-2 Big Ten) out of the top spot in the Big Ten and gives Iowa (18-6, 7-4) a shot to stay in the race.
Stauskas, U-M’s leading scorer took much of the onus on his tentative play, with his second straight lackluster performance in a road loss.
“A lot of that, I blame myself. I haven’t done my part offensively. Caris (LeVert) and Zak (Irvin) the last couple of games have been doing a great job stepping up and doing their fair share,” he said. “It falls on me right now; I have to be more aggressive and make it happen.”
U-M coach John Beilein wouldn’t elaborate on what Iowa’s defense did to neutralize Stauskas, but it was clear the Wolverines have to go back to the drawing board, as opponents have found a counter to Michigan’s strategy.
“You’ll have to watch film and figure that out,” Beilein said. “I don’t like giving up what happens all the time but they did a great job of paying attention to (Stauskas) and guarding him in ball screens a couple different ways.”
Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said the key was switching defenders, as 6-foot-9 Aaron White had most of that duty in the first meeting. Indiana had success last Sunday by putting a smaller, quicker defender on Stauskas, holding him to six points.
“We decided to put (6-foot-6) Marble on him, we thought that would be a better match and he was really good,” McCaffery said.
Marble had 26 points and expended energy on the defensive end guarding Stauskas, but the entire Iowa defense had a hand in making sure Stauskas didn’t have another stellar game.
“We were pretty much locked into collectively going after Stauskas,” McCaffery said. “You know, it's very difficult to get 26 in a game like this and at the same time guard the other team's best player.”
Stauskas didn’t get his first points until a dunk of a back-door cut with 7:14 left in the first half. He added another driving layin but only had five at halftime.
He made the first open 3-point opportunity he had, but by then the Hawkeyes had built a 23-point lead and the game was well out of hand.
“They made a lot of adjustments and did some switches on our ball screens and handoffs, which made things difficult in denying me the ball,” said Stauskas, who had no assists and four turnovers. “When I did try to drive, all their guys were in the gaps and they were trying to clog up the lane, which made it tough for me to penetrate.”
It’s an adjustment that the Wolverines will have to compensate for, as it marked the second time in the last three games that a team minimized their leading scorer.
“All teams are starting to play me like that, so that’s something I have to get used to. I’m not sure (how to adapt),” said Stauskas, who was averaging 17.3 points. “We’re going to have to watch film and I’ll have to talk to my teammates and coaches to figure out a strategy to make it work.”
Iowa also limited Glenn Robinson III to two points on 1-of-7 shooting. He had 14 points in the first meeting, but wasn’t able to get in the lane for easy shots on Saturday.
Robinson was coming off one of his best games, with 23 points against Nebraska on Wednesday, but couldn’t find the same stroke against Iowa.
“He had a bad game — he had a great game the other day,” Beilein said.
After opening the game with an alley-oop dunk, Robinson was held in check, with four rebounds and two blocks, but four turnovers.
Beilein credited Iowa’s defense with finding a counter to Michigan’s offensive action.
“They were really good defensively. If you look at their percentages, they’re a really good defensive team and you saw why today,” he said. “We’d have to be incredible with our 3-point shooting and we weren’t today with open shots.
“We didn’t get many and we would have had to make them all and we had to have good shot selection, which we didn’t early and then we had the turnovers in the second half.”
Jordan Morgan and Jon Horford, who were integral parts of Michigan’s eight-game winning streak with their inside play, have been struggling since. They combined for 13.2 points and 9.9 rebounds in the last 12 games.
Against Indiana, they totaled five points and 10 rebounds — all by Morgan — and in the win over Nebraska had seven points and six rebounds.
Saturday, they had just four points and eight rebounds. Iowa’s bigger interior, with Melsahn Basabe (eight points, 10 rebounds) and Aaron White (11 points, eight rebounds) helped give the Hawkeyes a 38-29 rebounding advantage, including 15-9 on the offensive end.
“Iowa’s big men are really talented and really good players and they have four of them coming at you,” Beilein said. “They dominate us on the glass and in the post and they really do a great job.”