If you like high-tempo basketball with points aplenty and a lot of back and forth action, the Iowa-Michigan series this year has been catnip for you. A little over a month ago, Iowa and Michigan played a frenetic game in Ann Arbor that Michigan won 103-91. Tonight Iowa and Michigan played another frenetic game in Iowa City -- but the good guys came out on top, with Iowa coming away with a 90-83 win to improve to 3-0 at home in the Big Ten and 4-3 overall in league play. Any chance we can get a rubber match between these two teams at the Big Ten Tournament in March? Based on the first two games between them this season, it would be one hell of a game.
Iowa finished with 90 points despite a really sluggish start. They missed six of their first eight shots and had two turnovers in the first five minutes. It didn't get a whole lot better immediately after that, either; Iowa had just nine points total seven minutes into the game. They could have been down much worse than 16-9 at that point if Michigan had beene able to hit a few more of their own shots in the early going. But then Iowa's offense caught fire, thanks to a spark from... Ryan Kriener? Kriener hit back-to-back jumpers to get Iowa going, then added three layups and a free throw after a Garza layup and a pair of CJ Fredrick free throws. In all, Kriener had 11 points on 5/5 shooting in three minutes of game time and Iowa went from down 16-9 to up 24-18.
Then Joe Wieskamp made three consecutive threes to boost Iowa's lead to 11 points at 33-22. Visions of another home court blowout over a Top 25 opponent danced through our heads -- but that wasn't going to happen. Michigan is too good and has too many offensive weapons to get torched like that. They used an 8-3 run to cut Iowa's lead to four (47-43) at halftime.
Michigan's hot finish carried over to a hot start in the second half and they grabbed two quick buckets to tie the game at 47-all. Iowa got their lead back and held a 4-5 point lead for the next few minutes. But after going down 61-55, Michigan went on a 17-4 run of their own over the next four minutes and led 72-65 with nine minutes to play. Then Luka Garza and CJ Fredrick took over. Fredrick made a massive three, then Garza hit his own three after a Jon Teske jumper had pushed MIchigan's lead back to six. Garza hit another jumper, followed by another Fredrick three to allow Iowa to retake the lead at 76-74 with 5:29 to play. They wouldn't relinquish that lead the rest of the game. Michigan cut the lead to a single point on a few occasions, but Iowa always had an answer -- none bigger than Ryan Kriener's 3-pointer off a no look behind the back pass from Connor McCaffery to give Iowa a 4-point lead with three minutes to play.
Garza was the big takeaway from Iowa in the first game with Michigan, going supernova for 44 points and 8 rebounds in Iowa's loss. His follow-up performance tonight wasn't quite as jaw-dropping, but it was still dazzling: 33 points and 7 rebounds.
While he needed 32 shots to get his 44 points in the first game with Michigan, he was much more efficient tonight -- he got his 33 points on 10/18 shooting (2/3 from deep) from the floor and 11/13 at the free throw line. Garza is a damn phenom and he's doing things that haven't been seen by anyone in a long time -- if ever.
Iowa's Luka Garza is the only player in D-I with multiple 30-point games vs a single opponent this season.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) January 18, 2020
Garza's 77 points vs Michigan this year are the most by any Big Ten player vs a single opponent in regular season conference play over the last 20 seasons. pic.twitter.com/dFL7rCX7JI
Of course, Garza isn't just clowning Michigan -- he's doing this against damn near everyone on Iowa's schedule this year. He's even doing it to the very best teams Iowa's played:
In 5 games vs. AP Top 25 foes this year, Luka Garza of @IowaHoops is averaging 29.8 PPG & 10.4 RPG.— Stats By STATS (@StatsBySTATS) January 18, 2020
In the last 15 seasons, only 2 players have averaged 25.0+ PPG & 10.0+ RPG vs. ranked opponents (min 5 games): Texas' Kevin Durant (2006-07) & K-State's Michael Beasley (2007-08).
LET THE PEACOCK SOAR.
Of course, Garza was far from a one-man band in this game. Iowa also got 21 points from CJ Fredrick on a hyper-efficient 6/9 shooting from the floor (3/4 from 3-point range) and 6/6 at the free throw line and 20 points from Joe Wieskamp on 4/10 shooting (3/5 from deep) and 9/10 at the free throw line. (Free throws, incidentally, were a pretty huge difference-maker in this game; Iowa went 27/30 (!) at the stripe, while Michigan was just 4/5 at the line. If you make FIVE TIMES as many free throws as your opponent attempts, you really should win.) Wieskamp was a key part of Iowa's surge in the first half and while he couldn't get many shots to drop in the second half, he was able to get to the line often and make his freebies.
Fredrick was a critical presence in this game; there's almost no chance Iowa wins this game without him. He markedly improves Iowa's spacing on offense and provides a key third scoring option along with Garza and Wieskamp that makes Iowa's offense far harder to defend -- and far more deadly overall. He's also a welcome presence on the defensive side of things, where he did an effective job of harrying Michigan's guards (at times anyway -- Iowa's defense as a whole wasn't anything to speak highly about in this game, given that Michigan still scored 83 points and averaged 1.14 points per possession in this game). Kriener was the only other Iowa player to score in double figures, with 14 points. In fact, Garza, Wieskamp, Fredrick, and Kriener scored 88 of Iowa's 90 points; Joe Toussaint scored the only other points of the game for Iowa.
For the second straight Friday night, Iowa picked up a huge home win over a ranked Big Ten opponent. Given that winning on the road in the Big Ten is still harder than getting the One Ring to Mount Doom (unless you're playing at Northwestern), it's vital to bank as many home wins as possible and Iowa is doing exactly that. This game looked like it was going sideways on Iowa midway through the second half, with Iowa struggling to get anything going on offense and the defense getting melted by Michigan possession after possession (the Wolverines made 10 of their first 15 shots in the second half). But Iowa showed the mental toughness that's been evident in so many of their big wins this year and retook control of the game after things looked grim. This team is good and wins like this just underline that fact.
GO IOWA AWESOME.