NCAA bid likely pipe dream for UM after Iowa loss
Ann Arbor — Michigan had one chance after another after another to secure its return to the NCAA Tournament, and it tripped at every turn.
The latest was Saturday night's 71-61 loss to No. 16 Iowa at Crisler Center.
Everyone knew how much this one meant for Michigan — heck, a half-hour before the game, they were playing "One Shining Moment" — but the Wolverines had another cold night on 3s, and Jarrod Uthoff, well, he didn't.
With the loss, by almost all accounts, Michigan now needs to win at least once, and probably two or even three times, in next week's Big Ten tournament if it's to be smiling on Selection Sunday.
BOX SCORE: No. 16 Iowa 71, Michigan 61
Michigan (20-11, 10-8 Big Ten) finished the regular season in eighth place in the Big Ten, after losing four of its final five games. Depending on the outcome of Sunday's games, Michigan will open against either Penn State, Nebraska or Northwestern at noon Thursday in Indianapolis. Michigan was 4-0 against those three teams in the regular season, but was slaughtered by the team it would play second, Big Ten champion Indiana.
"We'd have to play really well in the (Big Ten) tournament, I don't think there's any question," Michigan coach John Beilein said. "If it's not enough to get us in the NCAA Tournament, it's not enough. We've survived that before at Michigan, and we'll survive it again."
Iowa's Uthoff, who scored 23 in the first meeting with Michigan, also an Iowa win, sliced and diced the Wolverines defense again, finishing with 29 on 11-for-19 shooting in this one. Off-balance, open, hand in his face, it didn't matter one lick.
His .579 shooting percentage was his best in Big Ten play, and it put an end to a cold snap he's been going through — a cold snap that coincided with Iowa's four-game slump.
"Yesterday," Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said, when asked when he knew Uthoff was poised for this kind of big game again. "I think his mindset was to come out aggressive again.
"When he's playing like that, it changes everything."
Michigan, playing before its largest home crowd of the season (12,707) — though still not a sellout — showed some fight, especially after getting down 15 in the second half.
Zak Irvin had a steal and drew a foul on the fastbreak, making both free throws. The next possession, Duncan Robinson had a steal that was tipped to Irvin, who, again, took it the length and drained a jumper — as the crowd erupted and a stunned Iowa called a timeout.
Out of the timeout, a third straight Iowa turnover also ended up in Irvin's hands, as he scored its sixth straight point to cut the deficit to 59-54
Irvin, though, might've gotten a little too frisky after that — taking an ill-advised 3 the next time down, and missing badly. The next possession, he turned it over and Mike Gesell took it all the way to snap a scoring drought of more than six minutes for the Hawkeyes.
"We have to be able to control that, and we did not. We took some bad shots," Beilein said. "We needed to have more poise in that run. I get it, everyone was all jacked up and ready to go, but that's not the way we need to respond."
Derrick Walton Jr. answered back with a jumper, but Iowa's Anthony Clemmons, a Lansing native, drained a 3-pointer to stretch the lead back to eight. Michigan never got closer than six the rest of the way.
With a minute-and-a-half left, Michigan still had four fouls to get Iowa in the bonus. It tried to rapid foul, but it backfired the third time when Uthoff raced down for a layup and the one-and-one to send the fans to the exits.
The loss snaps a four-game losing streak for No. 16 Iowa (21-9, 12-6), which not that long ago was looking like the top team in the country.
Michigan, which has played most of the season without its two seniors — Spike Albrecht and Caris LeVert, who wore suit and ties and not jerseys when honored before the game — certainly missed them in crunch time, especially lately, at Maryland, at Wisconsin and, Saturday, against Iowa.
Albrecht and Levert are dandy decision-makers, and Michigan made some bad decisions — especially when the game, which Iowa led for more than 39 minutes, got close down the stretch. Irvin, Robinson and Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman also took some ill-advised shots at inopportune times, not that anyone's pointing a finger.
"You appreciate the fact that guys, really, they're not passing. They want to make the big shots," Walton said. "Sometimes it may have been a hero play, but you've gotta respect that. ... In the heat of the moment, you try to make the best play for the team."
Michigan trailed by 10 early in the first half, but battled back thanks to some inspired play by Mark Donnal, who had a big rebound and putback to stop some bleeding, then a steal at the other end, and not long after a 3-pointer. He also took a charge, playing a huge role in bringing the Crisler crowd to life.
Iowa led, 36-30, at the half, and early in the second, Michigan made 3-pointers on three straight possessions, but couldn't get any stops at the other end.
The Hawkeyes, despite that long scoring drought, shot 51.9 percent after halftime.
Walton led Michigan with 14 points, on four 3-pointers, and six assists. Irvin scored 11, but on 4-for-13 shooting. Abdur-Rahkman scored 10. Michigan shot 35.9 percent for the game, 32.4 percent in the second half. It was 8-for-34 (23.5 percent) on 3-pointers.
"Thirty-four 3s," said Beilein, "was not the formula today."
Michigan still outscored Iowa in the paint, 28-26, and outrebounded Iowa, 43-35, with Donnal grabbing 10 and Irvin and Robinson eight each, to keep things manageable, and allow for, at least, a comeback win in the end.
Uthoff was just too much, and got a lot of help from Clemmons (12 points), Gesell (11 assists) and Adam Woodbury (11 rebounds).
Plus, as has been the case much of this season — especially the second half of the Big Ten season, when Michigan went 3-6 when the competition got significantly tougher — something was missing for the Wolverines.
And, as a result, something might be missing for Michigan after next week, too.
That would be an NCAA Tournament bid, which, just five games ago, looked like a near-certainty.
"Anytime you lose a string of games like that, it can get to you, but you've gotta have resolve and work on getting the next one," said Robinson, who was 1-for-6 on 3-pointers — same as Irvin. "We'll have another opportunity to do so.
"That's the bright side of it all."