Even though the holiday season has ended, Iowa still appears to be in a giving mood.
The Hawkeyes turned the ball over too much and allowed too many easy baskets in dropping a 64-49 decision to Michigan Sunday in Ann Arbor. Iowa (11-6 overall, 1-3 Big Ten) fell behind early and never challenged the home team's lead in the second half.
"I've heard coaches say, "We didn't show up or we didn't come to play" That wasn‘t it," Iowa Coach Todd Lickliter said in his radio post-game interview. "It was just a lack of poise. We didn't survey the situation and play according to the way the game was going to be played.
"We didn't shoot it well, but we shot it well enough to compete."
Lickliter was pleased with his team's half court defense, but was unhappy with offensive rebounding and turnovers.
After turning the ball over 17 times in a loss to Minnesota on Thursday, the Hawkeyes gave it away four times in the first seven minutes at Michigan and that set the tone for the day. They finished with 18 giveaways. Iowa allowed 11 offensive rebounds to Michigan after giving up 18 against the Gophers.
Michigan scored on seven lay-ups in Sunday's first half and led by 16 at the break.
"There is no defense for - we throw the ball to them and they dunk it," Lickliter said. "We did that a number of times. I've got to figure out a way to coach these guys and be effective. I've been a coach now a number of years and I think the way we've gone about it has been effective. But as I look at it, we've played two teams (in a row) now that have beat us on the glass bad and they beat us to loose balls. We don't have the kind of tenacity that the Big Ten requires. We really got exposed today."
Standouts Manny Harris (18 points, eight rebounds, five assists, four steals) and DeShawn Sims (16 points, four rebounds, two steals) paced the winners. Matt Gatens led Iowa with 11 points and eight rebounds.
There was a stretch where Iowa turned the ball over on four of five possessions during a key Michigan run.
"It's a commitment level," Lickliter said of the turnovers. "During practice, we've talked about that you have to play in an athletic stance. You have to have your head up. You have to pass with either hand. You have to be able to see defense. There are things that are required.
"To me, it's almost like a choice. You can't play the game at a comfortable pace when the opponent is as good as we're playing. You have to be almost uncomfortable in your alertness, awareness, your physicalness as far as stance. And you have to demand of yourself almost perfection."
The Wolverines (13-3, 3-1) jumped out to a an early 10-point lead and forced Lickliter to burn three timeouts by midway through the first half.
"It was more teaching points than anything else," Lickliter said of the breaks. "I just can't understand …it just takes a tenacity and a competitive spirit that goes beyond just making baskets or whatever else we see the game being.
"When you line guys up, you don't have to be as talented physically as the guy next to you. That's why it's a team game. You support one another. That's why in basketball you work certain techniques. Unless you're, at one time, Michael Jordan, you're going to come up against somebody that's better than you. We need to be able to counter that. That comes through thinking the game; vision; preparation; things that you have to invest in."
Sophomore Jarryd Cole started his first game of the season. He replaced first-team center Cyrus Tate, a senior, who sat out the game with a left ankle sprain suffered against Minnesota. Lickliter said he expected Tate back for next weekend's game at Purdue, but the coach was unsure in what capacity he would have his leading rebounded.
"It's a pretty serious sprain," Lickliter said. "I don't expect him to be 100 percent. I don't even know how much he's going to practice. I don't think there is any question he would have helped us today."
Said Michigan Coach John Beilein: "He gets hurt with two days of prep time (for Michigan) and it's very difficult for any coach to adjust to. We don't get that lead that we got if Cyrus is in there. He's a heck of a player. But those things happen and you have to take advantage of them. I was happy we were able to defend well enough that we could actually get some transition baskets. You're not going to score a lot on them in half court. You're not going to out tweak them. They're just too solid."
Cole scored two early baskets on aggressive post moves. Iowa trailed 5-4 at that point but then went into an offensive drought that has become far too common in the last year and a half. The Wolverines' 1-3-1 zone pressured the perimeter and created confusion for the Hawkeyes.
"Our idea was to post our bug guy on their guard (in the back of the 1-3-1), but they changed it up a little bit," Gatens said. "We were expecting the middle to be a little bit more open and we could kick it in there and then we could kick it out the opposite side for a jump shot. But they have long guys and they're athletic. We'll have to game plan for it better next time and be ready for it."
Michigan rolled out to a 17-7 lead midway through the opening half. The Hawkeyes then brought in leading scorer Anthony Tucker (eight points, 2-3 on threes, 11 minutes), who had played sparingly since being suspended and suffering from mono in early December.
Iowa then went on a little run to cut its deficit to five with five minutes to play before the intermission. The Wolverines countered with a 13-2 run to spurt and went to the locker room with a 32-16 lead. It represented the visitors' lowest first-half output of the season. The route was on.
The Hawkeyes scored six, first-half field goals after netting just five in the final 20 minutes against Minnesota.
"Our guys are good guys and they've worked," Lickliter said. "Part of it is that it's very demanding right now with the level of play we're up against and there's really not much time to think about it. It almost has to be a reaction. We just haven't quite got to that spot. We're trying to use different combinations to compete."
Iowa gets a week off before playing at Purdue next Sunday.
"We have to take a look and see where we are," Lickliter said. "Are there wrinkles we can add and different things? It's a physicalness, too. We've got to get to Big Ten strength. We don't have that yet. Part of that is youth and part of that is approach."