Iowa City, Iowa — Michigan was hoping to ring in the New Year with a long-awaited resolution: beat Iowa on the road.
For the first time since Feb. 19, 2011, it finally happened.
The Wolverines snapped a five-game losing skid in the series and a string of four straight defeats at Carver-Hawkeye Arena with a 75-68 win on Tuesday in a game that really wasn't close.
Zavier Simpson and Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman led a balanced attack with 15 points apiece for Michigan (13-3, 2-1 Big Ten), which shot 11-for-25 from 3-point range and received a major lift from the reserve unit.
Charles Matthews added 14 points, including the last four points in the final 15 seconds to seal the victory. Isaiah Livers scored 13 of the bench's 37 points on a night when starters Eli Brooks, Duncan Robinson and Moritz Wagner combined for nine total points on three made field goals.
Michigan coach talks about his team's performance and snapping the a four-game losing streak at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Tuesday's 75-68 win. James Hawkins
“We’ve brought good teams in here in the 11 years I’ve been here,” Michigan coach John Beilein said. “I think we had a team that went to the national championship … We won a Big Ten championship three times and we’ve lost to Iowa all those times and we have only had one close game.
“Today, we couldn’t miss. We did a great job. Our bench was solid today and really helped us because Moe and Duncan didn’t have some of the things and they need to keep working … That may have been the difference in the past as well.”
After using a 6-0 spurt to whittle Michigan’s 18-point lead down to 12 at halftime, Iowa (9-7, 0-3) carried the momentum into the second half and scored the first five points to make it 48-41 with 17:23 to play.
It was the first of several instances where the Hawkeyes climbed within single digits only to be shot down the the Wolverines' reserves.
Michigan stemmed the tide with a Simpson layup and offensive putback by Wagner to reestablish a double-digit lead, 52-41, roughly a minute later.
Then after Iowa cut it to nine, a drive and kick out by Simpson to Livers for an open 3-pointer ignited a 7-0 run to that pushed Michigan's lead to 59-43 with 12:21 remaining.
Michigan coach talks about his freshman forward's performance and evolving role following Tuesday's 75-68 win at Iowa. James Hawkins
When Iowa pulled within nine with 10 minutes remaining, Livers stepped up and buried another 3-pointer.
Over a minute later, the Hawkeyes were back within eight before Simpson converted a layup to start a decisive 9-0 run that ended with seven straight points by Abdur-Rahkman to put the Wolverines ahead 71-54 at the 6:17 mark.
"I told Isaiah before we left the room, 'Isaiah, we're going to have a good game today,'" said Simpson, who started the second half and finished with seven assists and no turnovers.
"I said it to him and I looked him in the eye. He kind of gave me a like, 'Yeah, we are,' but I don't think he really knew. Then when we got in and we took advantage of our opportunity and that's what happened. So proud for him and proud of myself."
Michigan’s offense sputtered down the stretch but did enough to kill precious clock before Iowa used a last-gasp 9-0 run to make the outcome seem closer than what it was.
For a second straight game, the Wolverines were able to overcome a sloppy start in the first four minutes and used a 22-4 run over a five-minute span to pull ahead, 29-14, and take control with 8:11 left in the first half.
During the run, Abdur-Rahkman hit a pair of 3-pointers before Simpson finished it with a flourish on a three-point play and back-to-back 3-pointers. The Wolverines made eight of their first 11 3-point attempts in the game.
"I just wanted to play my role, get everyone involved, play great defense, make smart passes," Simpson said. "I knew at the end of the day there's going to be times, like today, where they kind of shut out a few people when it's late shot clock. I know my ability is to go and get buckets, put us in a better position than we were in.”
Iowa clawed back and cut the deficit to eight, 35-27, following two free throws by Tyler Cook (28 points). But Michigan’s bench came up huge as it did all night long and helped ignite a 13-3 run to give Michigan a 48-30 cushion with 2:34 left in the half.
After Cook’s free throws, Livers immediately answered with a 3-pointer to start a string of nine straight points that ended with Simpson getting into the lane for a scooping layup.
But the large lead didn’t last long as Iowa closed out the half with a 6-0 spurt over the final two minutes to trim the deficit to 48-36 at the break and set the stage for a tug-of-war second half.
“Really pleased to get the win because it doesn’t happen that often,” Beilein said. “(Iowa coach) Fran (McCaffrey) is one of the best coaches in the country, let alone this league, and to get a win against one of his coached teams is a great thing for us.”