By Pete Ruden
It was another cold night in Iowa City. With temperatures under 10 degrees during Iowa’s game against Michigan, Carver-Hawkeye needed to heat up somehow.
Something in the building caught fire, but it sure wasn’t the Hawkeyes.
The Wolverines kept Iowa winless in Big Ten play with a 75-68 victory over the Hawkeyes in their first game of the new year on Jan. 2.
Michigan used an extremely efficient first half, shooting better than 62 percent from the field and make 8-of-15 3-pointers to build a 12-point halftime lead. The Hawkeyes never got closer than 7 in the second half.
The final score, however, was deceiving, as the Wolverines seemed to dominate the game after the 14-minute mark in the first half.
Wide-open 3-pointers killed Iowa. Although they entered the game shooting slightly better than 36 percent from behind the arc, the Wolverines hit their 3s at a 44 percent clip.
Muhammed-Ali Abdur-Rahkman, Isaiah Livers, and Zavier Simpson took advantage of Iowa’s lackadaisical defense, combining for eight 3-pointers on 15 attempts.
“We’ve really worked at finding the open man,” Michigan head coach Jim Beilein said. “If you were to have saw us at the beginning of the year, the ball was sticking … Against teams like Fran that they’re always pressing, they’re always changing defenses, you’ve got to be in attack mode and find the next open man quickly, and then, obviously, you’ve got to make shots, which we did tonight.”
When Tyler Cook wasn’t scoring, the Hawkeyes suffered. He had another tremendous game, dropping 28 points on 10-of-15 shooting and 8 rebounds, but he couldn’t will his team to victory.
Cook was the sole player who gave Iowa a chance. He was only player in double figures until the end of the second half; the Hawkeyes looked completely lost without him on the floor at times.
Outside of Cook, the offense simply fell flat.
“Our offense was sputtering,” Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery said. “We weren’t moving the ball. It was kind of like, ‘Go ahead, TC, go score.’ They were doubling him. He was terrific; he was great.”
The loss breaks Iowa’s five-game winning streak and knocks it down to 0-3 in Big Ten play — not the start it was looking for.
After looking phenomenal against Northern Illinois on Dec. 29 and tying a school record with 34 assists, the Hawkeyes didn’t look like the same team.
“I’m not inside of every guy’s head individually, but as a unit, we gotta be better and if we see guys who are not there energy-wise, we’ve gotta be able to pick guys up,” Cook said. “It’s not just one man’s job. Everybody’s got to do it.”
Now in conference play for the rest of the season, the road won’t necessarily get any easier for Iowa.
The Hawkeyes will host Ohio State on Thursday, and they have some work to do if they want a better result.
“We’ll obviously break this down and make some teaching points; some of them won’t be too pleasant, but there were some good things,” McCaffery said. “Then we’ll shift our focus to Ohio State. They’re playing well, they’re athletic, they’ve got some veteran guys. We just have to play better.”