Beilein hopes torrid touch follows Michigan home
Ann Arbor — Over the past couple weeks, Michigan coach John Beilein was waiting for his team to awaken from its offensive slumber.
That moment finally came in last Sunday’s rare win at Wisconsin, where the Wolverines torched the nets in a hot-shooting first half.
Now Beilein is hoping the blistering performance is not just an anomaly and carries over into Wednesday’s 6:30 p.m. matchup against Iowa at Crisler Center.
“That was the only game we played well (recently), so I hope that’s a trend,” Beilein said Tuesday. “I hope that was not just a fluke, but that would be nice if we could go and shoot — I think four of our last six games and we won 50 percent of them — we shot under 30 percent from 3 and we shot 50 or 60 percent from the foul line.
“If we can go back and just shoot the ball I know the way we can shoot the ball, that will solve a lot of our issues.”
In home wins over Rutgers, Northwestern and Minnesota, the Wolverines shot 32 percent, 28 percent and 25 percent on 3-pointers, and 73 percent, 64 percent and 43 percent on free throws, respectively.
In road losses at Nebraska, Purdue and Northwestern, Michigan shot 22 percent, 57 percent and 23 percent from 3-point range, and 60 percent, 56 percent and 68 percent at the stripe, respectively.
Against Wisconsin, though, Michigan shot 56 percent (28-for-50) from the floor, 45 percent (9-for-20) from beyond the arc, and 75 percent (18-for-24) on free throws.
However, scoring against a scuffling Iowa team that has given up at least 80 points in 10 of its last 11 games — and pushed then-No. 4 Michigan State to the brink last week — shouldn’t be a problem. Instead, the biggest issue should be limiting sophomore guard Jordan Bohannon and sophomore forward Tyler Cook.
Bohannon ranks 24th nationally in 3-point field-goal percentage (44.1 percent) and is tied for 27th in 3-pointers made (177), but was held in check in Michigan’s 75-68 win at Iowa on Jan. 2. On the other hand, Michigan couldn’t do anything to contain Cook, who poured in 28 points (10-for-15 shooting) and Beilein likened to Wisconsin big man Ethan Happ.
“The answer would be load up against (Cook), but then you got Bohannon hitting 3s. You got a lot of people that can make 3s on that team,” Beilein said. “When you have a multi-skilled big man that can do a lot of different things, it’s hard to guard him. We'll try to do some different things in practice, but he's a tough guard for everybody in the league.”
Cook ranks seventh in the Big Ten in field-goal percentage (56.9 percent) and 12th in scoring (15.4 points). Over the last five games, he’s averaging 18.8 points and shooting 58.6 percent from the floor, and that includes last Saturday’s eight-point performance at Ohio State.
Fifth-year senior forward Duncan Robinson said the key to slowing down Cook this time around will be throwing different defensive looks at him and making him uncomfortable.
“He's super talented as we saw in our first game against them,” Robinson said. “He's put together a really good Big Ten season. We just got to be physical with him and try to make him work for his points."
For Michigan, Iowa marks the beginning of a critical final stretch. The Wolverines host their last two home games of the season this week, capped by Sunday’s home finale against Ohio State, before closing out the regular season on the road at Penn State and Maryland next week.
And while Robinson said the Wolverines still have a few areas to tighten up and have a little ways to go before they hit their stride, they’re aiming to solidify their March resume and remain in the hunt for the No. 4 seed in the conference tournament.
“It’s huge,” Robinson said of this week. “You gotta protect home court. Any home court loss is a bad loss, so we want to do that and if we do so it puts us in a good position moving forward, whether it be Big Ten tournament or NCAA Tournament.
“We're far from a finished product, but I think a lot of teams are like that, too. It's going to be all about who can come together at the right time.”
Beilein said freshman forward Isaiah Livers remains questionable with an ankle injury but was more optimistic of his chances to suit up against Iowa.
“He was able to do a few things yesterday,” Beilein said. “We'll know more at the end of (Tuesday’s practice). We're very hopeful about tomorrow.”
Livers landed awkwardly on his left foot after a fast-break layup in the first two minutes of last week’s loss at Northwestern and didn’t return. He also missed Sunday’s win at Wisconsin, where he wore a gray sweatsuit on the bench and still walked with a limp.
Livers scored a season-high 13 points on 5-for-6 shooting in 27 minutes off the bench in the first meeting against Iowa.
Beilein said grad transfer Jaaron Simmons could begin to see more minutes late in games if players continue to struggle at the free-throw line.
Simmons was a 75.8 percent free-throw shooter in two seasons at Ohio University before he transferred to Michigan. However, he’s only shooting 61.5 percent (8-for-13) this season and hasn’t attempted a free throw in a game since Jan. 6.
Simmons’ playing time has fluctuated all season, but he played 10 minutes against Wisconsin last Sunday after sitting the previous three games. He finished with a rebound, a turnover and his first made 3-pointer since Nov. 29.
“He's got great energy is practice. He really wants to play and he shows us every day in practice how much he wants to get out on that court,” Beilein said. “He scores the ball — compared to the other point guards (Eli Brooks and Zavier Simpson) — probably just as well, if not better, than the other two just in practice.”
IOWA AT MICHIGAN
Tip-off: 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Crisler Center, Ann Arbor
TV/radio: BTN/950 AM
Records: No. 22 Michigan 20-7, 9-5 Big Ten; Iowa 12-15, 3-11
Outlook: Michigan won the first meeting, 75-68, on Jan. 2 and hasn’t beat Iowa twice in the same season since 2010-11…Iowa ranks third in the Big Ten in scoring offense (80.1 points) and last in scoring defense (78.5 points). The Hawkeyes have lost each of their last four road games by at least 14 points.