The Michigan Wolverines may not have had much to play for in their Saturday afternoon game with the Iowa Hawkeyes, but one would have been hard pressed to notice based on their spirited effort on the floor. They started out hot from the outside with four of their first six baskets from beyond the arc (two of which were sank by Dion Harris). That helped the home team grab a 16-12 advantage with 13:31 to go, but the Hawkeyes came storming back. Six straight points from Greg Brunner sparked 16-3 run that put Steve Alford's club up 28-19 the 6:51 mark. The Wolverines needed someone to step up and stop the offensive bleeding, and that someone turned out to be Brent Petway.
“Air Georgia” sparked the Maize and Blue and helped his team stay in the game by scoring eight of Michigan's 15 points as the half ran out. That was enough to help Wolverines head into the locker room down by only one (35-34)
Michigan got more help from the front court in the second half, taking the lead (39-37) on a three point play by Graham Brown and a jumper from Petway. But as was the case in the first half, the Hawkeyes responded in emphatic fashion. A quick 8-0 run put the visitors right back on top, 45-39.
Dion Harris finally ended the scoring drought with two straight three-pointers to tie the score at 45 with 13:11 left. The Wolverines continued to keep pace with the Hawkeyes, scoring six of their next eight points from the free throw line. Then Ronald Coleman came through with a huge three pointer to regain the lead, 56-54, with 6:47 remaining.
The frontcourt tandem of Graham Brown and J.C. Mathis kept the home team in position to walk away with a victory with their yeomen efforts down low. A tip slam from Mathis put the Wolverines up three, and five straight points from Brown minutes later gave the Wolverines 63-61 lead with 1:17 left in the game. Dion Harris attempted to give his club a little cushion with a driving lay-up attempt, but he was unable to convert. That led to a fast break for the Hawkeyes, which Adam Haluska made good on to send the two teams to overtime tied at 63.
Dion Harris gave Michigan an early lead in the extra session with a big triple, but the Wolverines went cold again afterward. The Maize and Blue went over three minutes without scoring, allowing the Hawkeyes to grab a 70-66 lead. A lay-up by Graham Brown finally ended the scoreless streak with forty seconds left, which narrowed the deficit to two. Then came the play that likely determined the outcome of the game.
After an Iowa timeout with 39 seconds left on the clock, Tommy Amaker deployed his club in a full court press. The Wolverines came through with a number of near steals, but weren’t able to come up with the ball. However, the disruption caused by their ball-hawking defense prevented the Hawkeyes from getting the ball over the halfcourt after the clock clicked down past 29 seconds. Unfortunately for the Wolverines the referees missed the obvious 10-second violation. They were then forced to foul. That pushed the lead to four and Iowa hung on to win 74-72.
"I am really proud of our kids and the effort they gave,” Amaker said about his team after the game. “I though they competed as hard as they could. We tried everything we possibly could. As a coach, and I mentioned this to our players, I could never ask anything more of them. I feel bad for them that we didn't come out on top with the victory, but certainly they gave every ounce of energy that they had to pull it out and so did Iowa. When you are in those situations, it is going to be the lose balls, a free throw here or there and it's going to be a possession-by-possession game. There are times we turned it over late when we had opportunities and we didn't cash in and they did. You just tip your hat to them and I hope they make it in the NCAA Tournament. I think they compete hard, they have good kids and we are fond of their staff."
Michigan finished up the regular season 13-17 and 4-12 in the Big Ten. Next up is a Big Ten Tournament battle on Thursday with the Northwestern Wildcats at the United Center in Chicago.