Michigan's 'fight,' Eli Brooks' big night not enough to take down Iowa
Michigan was able to weather the initial storm.
With Zavier Simpson playing only nine minutes in the first half and Iowa using an 18-2 run to build an 11-point lead, the Wolverines battled back and had a chance late.
But foul trouble, another big game from Luka Garza and a porous defensive effort sent No. 19 Michigan to a 90-83 loss Friday night at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
It was the second straight Big Ten road contest the Wolverines held a lead in the final six minutes. But another late run — this time a 19-5 spurt by Iowa that turned a six-point lead into an eight-point deficit — did them in and dropped Michigan to 0-5 in true road games.
“I am very happy with our guys' energy, effort, and attitude," Michigan coach Juwan Howard said. "They showed a ton of passion these last two games on the road. Unfortunately, we haven’t been able to get the win we wanted. But I love how we have grown through adversity, and how we are competing each and every possession.”
Eli Brooks scored a career-high 25 points and made five 3-pointers to help Michigan (11-6, 2-4 Big Ten) hang around despite the Wolverines being whistled for 10 more fouls and attempting 25 fewer free throws.
Franz Wagner added 18 points, Jon Teske had 14 points and David DeJulius scored 10.
After putting up a career-high 44 points in the first meeting, Garza was more efficient in the rematch and finished with 33 points on 18 shots to lead Iowa (13-5, 4-3).
Per ESPN Stats & Info, Garza is the only player in Division I with multiple 30-point games against a single opponent this season. His 77 total points against Michigan this year is also the most by any Big Ten player versus an opponent in regular-season conference play over the last 20 seasons.
This time around, Garza received plenty of help from his teammates. CJ Fredrick added 21 points, Joe Wieskamp had 20 and Ryan Kriener scored 14 for the Hawkeyes, which shot 50.9 percent (27-for-53) from the field and went 27-for-30 from the free-throw line.
The early part of the second half was riddled with whistles. Michigan was called for six fouls in the first 4 minutes, 34 seconds before Howard had enough and was hit with a technical foul.
Michigan fought through the adversity and responded with a 17-4 run. Brooks started the flurry with a 3-pointer and Wagner scored on a layup to give Michigan its first lead since the first half, 62-61, with 12:46 left. Wagner and Brooks each buried a 3-pointer to end the spurt and make it 72-65 with 9:42 remaining.
Michigan’s defense couldn’t hold the lead as Frederick quelled the momentum with a 3-pointer. From there, Iowa quickly turned things around and countered with the 19-5 run to regain control.
"Well, it was huge," Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said of Frederick's 3-pointer. "It gave us the confidence to come back because we were pretty much relying on Luka up to that point. It also re-energized the crowd. They respond to do that shot and they were on fire the rest of the night. So it was big."
Michigan cut the deficit to 80-79 with two free throws from Brooks with 3:25 to go but that’s as close as it would get. The Hawkeyes rattled off seven straight points to create enough separation as the Wolverines let another winnable road game slip away.
Just like last weekend at Minnesota, Michigan got off to a strong start. On defense, the Wolverines were active and threw different looks at Garza. On offense, they moved the ball and used a pair of 3-pointers from Brooks to take a 16-9 lead with 13:13 left in the first half.
But things quickly started to teeter out of control. The Hawkeyes got hot in a hurry — making nine consecutive shots — and torched the Wolverines’ defense with a 24-6 run. Kriener keyed the flurry with 11 points before Wieskamp capped it with three 3-pointers to put Iowa up 33-22 at the 7:48 mark.
Much of that damage was done after Simpson picked up his second foul with 11:10 left and sat the rest of the half.
Yet, Michigan didn’t fold. Brooks hit shot after shot and DeJulius was able to create his own offense off the dribble with eight points down the stretch — including a buzzer-beating floater that pulled the Wolverines within 47-43 at the break.
"We're improving in every area," Howard said, "and I love the fight that we have."
Here are other observations from Friday’s game:
►Brooks entered the game mired in a shooting slump. Over the past three contests against Michigan State, Purdue and Minnesota, Brooks had tallied just 15 points while shooting 7-for-23 from the field and 1-for-14 from 3-point range.
After missing his first two 3-point attempts against Iowa, Brooks dialed it in. He racked up 14 points (6-for-9 shooting) and drained a pair of 3-pointers in the opening 20 minutes.
By the end of the night, Brooks surpassed his previous career high of 24 points set earlier this season, tied his career high with five made 3s, finished 9-for-17 from the field and played all 40 minutes.
"I know he's been getting a lot of media attention, a lot of negative press," Howard said. "I'm not blaming you guys, I just mean in general. Unfortunately some of it has been disrespectful, I would say, and it's been unfair. At the end of the day I have to commend him for staying positive, keeping a mental toughness and trying to find answers."
►Isaiah Livers was dressed and participated in pregame warmups for the first time since he suffered a left groin injury on Dec. 21.
While Livers still didn’t play on Friday, it was a positive step and could be a sign that he’s nearing a return to action. Michigan will have four days off before it hosts Penn State on Wednesday.
"He's getting better," Howard said. "He's improving."
Brandon Johns Jr. made his fifth straight start in Livers’ absence. Johns finished with two points (1-for-3 shooting) and five rebounds in 28 minutes before fouling out with 4:56 left in the game.
►Simpson moved into second place on Michigan’s all-time assist list by passing Rumeal Robinson’s mark of 575.
Simpson found Brooks for a 3-pointer with 14:54 left in the second half to tie Robinson. Then a minute later, Simpson fed Brooks for another deep ball to leapfrog Robinson.
Simpson finished with six assists in the game and sits at 579 for his career, trailing only Gary Grant (731).