Iowa City, Iowa — And with that, Michigan’s brutally tough stretch has come to a close.
There were some good moments, and some bad moments.
And then there was Sunday, which was as frustrating as it could get for Michigan, which had No. 16 Iowa in its grasp, but just couldn’t finish the job.
In a game that didn’t seem like a fair fight coming in, Michigan stood toe to toe, withstood run after run and made a heck of a game out of it before falling, 82-71, to Iowa before a packed and rowdy crowd at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Sunday afternoon.
“Of course, we don’t really do moral victories,” Derrick Walton Jr. said. “That’s not what we do.
“We’re gonna grow from it.”
It was a game of runs — and previously when good teams went on runs against Michigan, the Wolverines wilted, like against Xavier, and Connecticut, and Purdue earlier this month.
Not this time.
Even when Iowa went on a 12-0 run over a three-minute stretch halfway through the second half to extend the lead to 63-52, Michigan kept battling and eventually pulled to within 73-68 with 2:56 left, thanks to a super-deep 3-pointer that Walton drained that had the crowd feeling antsier than it had in some time.
Then Iowa answered right back, as it so often did, with a Peter Jok 3-pointer, and that just about did it for Michigan (13-5, 3-2 Big Ten).
One category was the difference — turnovers. Michigan, which averages 10 turnovers a game, had 13 of them against Iowa, including several big ones in the second half, two by Zak Irvin that directly led to five points for Iowa (14-3, 5-0).
Iowa scored 16 points off turnovers, including a huge, dagger 3-pointer by Lansing native Anthony Clemmons in the second half.
“Thirteen turnovers for us is catastrophic,” Michigan coach John Beilein said. “Some of them are forced, some of them were unforced.
“Those are things we can’t afford to do.”
Iowa, of course, helped itself in the victory, too, making seven 3-pointers after halftime — including four in four tries for Jok, after he was 0-for-2 before halftime.
Some of those were defensive mismatches, like when Mark Donnal got switched on to Jarrod Uthoff, who finished with a game-high 23 points. Iowa got several easy looks, especially inside, on switches. Others were just a good basketball team doing all the things good basketball teams do.
This is an Iowa team, after all, that has already beaten Purdue and Michigan State twice, both in dominating fashion.
“When you play Michigan, the way they execute their offense, the way they move the ball, and the multiple 3-point shooters they have, they’re never out of a game,” said Iowa coach Fran McCaffery, who credited Ahmad Wagner and Mike Gesell with the difference-making defense.
“So you can’t ever let up.”
Walton finished with 16 points to lead Michigan, as he took 14 shots in looking more aggressive like Beilein wants him to be while Caris LeVert remains out. LeVert (lower left leg) missed his fourth consecutive game. Walton in the first half was as cold on 3-pointers (0-for-4) as the weather outside (-23 windchill), then made 4-of-7 in the second.
Aubrey Dawkins had 12 points, and Zak Irvin added 11 points to go with eight rebounds and five assists, and Duncan Robinson had 11 points.
Continuing to impress, Donnal had eight points and seven rebounds and played some good defense.
Michigan’s starting five got off to a sluggish start, as Iowa roared to an 11-0 run. The starting five did much better to start the second half, with a 16-9 run that put the Wolverines on top, 49-47, erasing a five-point halftime deficit.
“Just kind of ran out of time at the end,” said Robinson, who missed six 3-pointers — the most he’s missed in a game for Michigan. “It definitely stings a lot, for sure, definitely, just because I, personally, I think we all felt like that was a game we could’ve won.”
In the last two weeks, Michigan lost to then-No. 20 Purdue and Iowa, sandwiched around a home victory at No. 3 Maryland.
That Michigan kept its head above water during the tough run, especially without LeVert, should bode well for its NCAA Tournament resume, especially with four winnable games coming up, starting with Minnesota at home Wednesday.
Not that there was any consolation in that Sunday for the Wolverines, who even outrebounded the physical Hawkeyes, 33-27, which nobody saw coming.
Jok scored 16 for Iowa, Adam Woodbury added 12 — including a fast-break dunk that had the crowd howling — and Dom Uhl scored 10.
“We learned we can compete with anybody,” Donnal said of the just-completed three-game stretch. There’s just a few minutes in the first and second half that we kind of poorly executed.
“We’re gonna learn from the mistakes and be better for it, moving on.”