As Michigan coach Juwan Howard scanned over the box score, he was both baffled and stunned.
The Wolverines were whistled for a season-high 23 personal fouls in Friday’s 90-83 loss at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. That was 10 more fouls than the Hawkeyes were called for and led to Iowa attempting 25 more free throws.
“Looking at the stats, unfortunately, they shot a lot of free throws,” Howard said, his eyebrows raising as he rattled off the numbers. “(Luka) Garza shot 11-for-13. (Joe) Wieskamp shot 9-for-10. (CJ) Fredrick shot 6-for-6. Twenty-seven free throws made on their end, 30 attempts.
“Looking at our stats, we drove to the basket. We went there hard. We didn’t shy away from contact. We made four free throws, and only attempted five.”
Howard’s mounting frustration and discontent with the disparity was visible throughout the contest as the Wolverines were plagued by foul trouble.
Zavier Simpson drew two fouls and sat the final 11:10 of the first half. Brandon Johns Jr. fouled out with 4:56 left in the game. Jon Teske, Franz Wagner and Austin Davis each finished with four fouls apiece, while no Iowa player had more than two fouls.
It reached a breaking point early in the second half when the Wolverines (11-6, 2-4 Big Ten) were whistled for six fouls over a four-minute stretch and put the Hawkeyes in the bonus with 15:26 to play. By then, Howard was fed up with the calls — or lack thereof — and was hit with his second technical foul in four games.
“Yes, it is. It is very frustrating,” Howard said about the foul discrepancy. “That was a big reason why I got a tech, because I was very upset. Unfortunately, I gifted them two points at the free-throw line, so I added to the free throws. But there was a possession out there where I felt we got fouled and it was a no-call.”
Howard added he was on the verge of getting a second technical foul before Isaiah Livers stepped in, calmed him down and “put me in my place.”
After Howard cooled off, the Wolverines heated up with a 14-2 run and took a six-point lead that they ultimately couldn’t maintain.
“This team is so connected from top to bottom. We're a family and they know that I'm going to fight hard for them,” Howard said. “The beauty of it is that they know they have a coach that loves them and is going to support them.”
While Howard was unhappy about the uneven number of free throws and fouls, Iowa coach Fran McCaffery pointed to his team’s style of defense limiting Michigan’s trips to the stripe.
The Hawkeyes deployed a 2-3 zone throughout the middle portion of the game to protect the paint and force outside shots. The Wolverines obliged, with half of their 68 field-goal attempts coming from 3-point range.
Iowa, on the other hand, had 37 of its 53 shots come from inside the arc against Michigan’s man-to-man defense that limits long-range looks. The Hawkeyes were still outscored 34-30 in the paint.
“We played a lot of zone,” McCaffery said. “That'll typically keep you out of foul trouble.”
For Michigan, it was the second straight back-and-forth battle where it drew a higher number of whistles. Last weekend at Minnesota, a 19-7 foul differential resulted in the Gophers attempting 27 free throws to the Wolverines’ six.
In Michigan’s four Big Ten road games — all losses — the Wolverines have committed 82 fouls and attempted 39 free throws, while opponents have combined for 48 fouls and 110 free-throw attempts.
"We're going to keep grinding and take it one game at a time,” Howard said. “We’re looking forward to the next matchup.”