Iowa Wins at Michigan; 5th Time in 27 years

The Iowa Hawkeyes received career best games from Tony Freeman (28 points) and Cyrus Tate (22 points, 11 rebounds) and held of a furious Michigan scoring rally late to secure a 68-60 win in Ann Arbor. Prior to the game, Iowa had just four wins in the last 27 years of playing at Michigan, but they have now won in their last three trips into Crisler Arena....

I want to make sure that I am as grounded as I can be as I write about Iowa's 68-60 win over Michigan in Ann Arbor.

Michigan is now 5-13, having one of their worst seasons of my lifetime, and I was born in 1971.

Michigan looks like a bunch of square pegs trying to fit into round holes as they adjust to the highly disciplined offensive style of new coach John Beilein. The majority of the players on the roster were brought in under former Coach Tommy Amaker to play a different brand of basketball. Now, that brand of basketball had not yielded an NCAA tournament appearance in this decade, but still, Michigan has always had superior talent.

But it's not like Iowa is playing with a full deck, either.

Todd Lickliter inherited a team that was destined for struggle before he had even heard from Iowa Athletic Director Gary Barta last spring.

To make matters worse, Tony Freeman missed 10 early games this year, and still has played in less than half of Iowa's contests. Jarryd Cole, who had emerged as Iowa's best inside presence and was only getting better, hasn't played in a Big Ten game this year, nor will he. He blew out his ACL in Iowa's last non-conference game.

In my opinion, and I have said this more than a few times this year and still believe it, this is the most undermanned Iowa team since Dick Schultz was patrolling the Iowa sidelines back in the early to mid 1970's.

All of that being said, beating Michigan in Ann Arbor has not been an easy thing for Iowa. Prior to Saturday night's game, Iowa had won there just four times since January 18th, 1981. That's four times in 27 years.

Iowa winning in Ann Arbor has been a rarity, with only road visits to Champaign, Illinois being more challenging to the black and gold.

But Iowa has now won three in a row at Michigan, and Saturday night's win showed some significant signs of growth my this year's basketball team.

For example:

Tony Freeman continued his stellar play, scoring a career best 28 points, including six of eleven from three-point range. He is 14 of 29 from long range over the course of his last three games, nearly 50%. He is growing into a very good long range shooter, something he was not prior to this year.

Cyrus Tate has continued to make strides in Cole's absence, and he put up his best game as a Hawkeye with 22 points (8 of 10 from the floor) and 11 rebounds. He is becoming more active in all phases, which is huge.

Seth Gorney is forcing some Iowa fans to reevaluate some of the criticisms they posted about him early this year with effort on the court that might not stuff the stat sheet, but one that makes a coach so very happy. He had 12 boards and four points in 36 minutes of action.

By the way, when was the last time an Iowa player fouled out of a contest?

Jeff Peterson's right hand is bothering him more than anyone realizes, but he is not letting it take away from his entire floor game. He had nine assists to just two turnovers on Saturday in 28 minutes of action.

Jake Kelly made some big plays, as did Kurt Looby.

Justin Johnson was stymied again on Saturday, but that will soon change, as Tony Freeman is averaging better than 20 points per game over his last four outings. Teams will have to put more of an emphasis on Freeman now, which should make life easier on JJ.

The team won the battle of second chance points (17-8) and played Michigan even in points off of turnovers (14-15).

The entire team showed great poise late in the game.

Iowa led 54-39 with 4:20 remaining. That's when Michigan began to heat up from long range and threw a full court press on the Hawks.

Michigan would hit six three-point shots over the final 4:08 of the game, but Iowa did not wilt under their pressure, they did not wilt in the face of that excellent marksmanship and they hit 10 of 13 free throws during that stretch. They also committed just two turnovers during that pivotal stretch.

For the game, Iowa made 49% of its field goal attempts and got to the foul line 24 times on the road. Michigan went to the line just eight times and shot 41% from the floor. Iowa dominated the glass 37-25 and had 15 assists on 23 field goal attempts.

Iowa committed 14 turnovers to Michigan's 12; Lickliter would like to see Iowa's number no higher than 12, but hey, no one is complaining tonight.

This Michigan team does not bring back memories of the Fab Five or the great Wolverine teams of the 1980's, but this Iowa team is hardly reminiscent of its 1980 Final Four past, either.

It was a matchup of two programs trying to forge brand new identities under first year head coaches that have been high successful in their recent past.

Iowa clearly looked like the team that has made more progress, and one that is playing the game more closely to its coach's liking.

Iowa is now 9-10 overall, 2-5 in Big Ten play. While a .500 season still seems like a tall order (they would have to go 6-5 over their last 11 regular season games, plus win their first round game in the Big Ten tournament), it's at least a discussion.

Iowa has two games against a suddenly depleted Penn State team, two against last place Northwestern, and a home game against Michigan and Illinois on their remaining schedule. If they could somehow win every one of those games, there's your six wins from the above scenario. That would also represent eight Big Ten wins, which would be a mind blower from where I am sitting. Now, there is many a slip ‘tween the cup and the lip, and nothing will come easy for this team.

But at least they have provided hope for the future, through dedicated play during their very difficult opening portion of this year's Big Ten schedule.

Which is a sure sign of excellent leadership and kids who have bought into what their coach is teaching them.


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