By Pat Harty
IOWA CITY, Iowa – A night that started with the National Anthem being performed brilliantly on the violin by 2018 Miss Iowa Mikhayla Hughes-Shaw would only get better for Hawkeye fans.
That’s because the Iowa men’s basketball team finally earned that elusive signature win in conference play by defeating fifth-ranked Michigan 74-59 before a sellout crowd of 15,056 on Friday at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
Iowa used a balanced offense that included three players scoring in double figures, a stingy zone defense and a half-court trapping press to pull off the upset as Michigan fell to 20-2 overall and 9-2 in the Big Ten.
Iowa improved to 17-5 overall and 6-5 in the conference and now has five days to rest and prepare for next Thursday’s game at Indiana, which has lost seven games in a row.
"I saw it on film and I saw it coming last year as well, but I can see why they're 17-5 right now," Michigan coach John Beilein said of Iowa, which already has won three more games than last season when it finished 14-19 overall and just 4-14 in the Big Ten. "I was laughing at people going into this year when they weren't being ranked as one of the top teams in our league.
"I said, are you kidding me? They've got everybody back from a really good team. I mean who has everybody back, plus (Joe) Wieskamp. Iowa is just a really good team.":
Sophomore center Luka Garza led Iowa in scoring with 19 points, including 15 in the second half when the Hawkeyes pulled away. Freshman Joe Wieskamp finished with 16 points and junior forward Ryan Kriener came off the bench to score 15 points and grab 10 rebounds.
The Iowa students rushed the court after the game and celebrated with the players for several minutes as the loudspeaker played "Another One Bites the Dust" by Queen.
"I tried to shake hands and then all the sudden I had a camera on top of my head and 19 students tried to take my jersey off," said Iowa point guard Jordan Bohannon. "It was fun, though."
It was fun because Bohannon and his cohorts bounced back from back-to-back defeats and showed that they had what it takes to get a true signature win.
"It's the same thing I've been saying all season, we have the capability of doing this," Bohannon said. "When things are not going our way, there is going to be a lot of outside noise saying we can't get things done. But I've been trying to stay even-keel and just try to keep the team positive. We put our head down and worked this week and it definitely showed tonight."
Iowa led by 15 points early in the second half, but the Wolverines trimmed the deficit to five on a basket by center Jon Teske about midway through the half.
Garza then scored five consecutive points, including a 3-point basket that pushed Iowa’s lead by back to double figures at 59-49 with 8:53 remaining.
The 6-foot-11 sophomore also had a dunk that expanded Iowa’s lead to 65-51 with seven minutes remaining.
The arena was rocking at that point because fans could sense that an upset was brewing.
Michigan struggled on offense for most of the game, making just 21-of-65 field-goal attempts, including 8-of-33 from 3-point range, and was also hampered by foul problems.
The Wolverines only scored four more points in Friday's game than Minnesota scored in the first half against Iowa last Sunday. Iowa's halfcourt press really seem to frustrate and confuse the Michigan players.
"I thought we would give them some trouble with it," said Iowa coach Fran McCaffery. "And it can do that. And sometimes there can be holes that they exploit and you've got to get out of it.But it was really good today."
Wieskamp only made one 3-point basket, but it came on a shot that he banked in from near the top of the key in the second half. He figured it was Iowa's day after that shot went in.
"That one did not feel good coming off the hand," Wieskamp said. "I think God was on my side with that one and helped me out. It was good to see that one go in."
It was also good to see the students rush the court because moments like that have been few and far between at Carver-Hawkeye Arena recently.
"I was just so focused on the game that I didn't really think about anything of that nature," Wieskamp said. "But I could feel them right away."
Wieskamp led Iowa with 12 points in the first half, six of which came on three consecutive baskets during a 13-0 scoring run that turned 17-12 deficit into a 25-17 lead with about seven minutes left before halftime.
Kriener scored 11 points in the first half and also had seven rebounds by halftime.
His contribution was critical and timely because Garza played less than seven minutes in the first half after picking up two early fouls.
Iowa also more than doubled Michigan output on the boards in the first half, finishing with a 26-12 rebounding advantage.
The Wolverines struggled to make shots in the first half, converting on just 9-of-28 field-goal attempts.
Michigan also had no answer for Iowa in the paint.
It didn't matter that shooting guard Isaiah Moss was held scoreless after having scored at least 12 points in six of the previous eight games, or that power forward Tyler Cook only scored seven points, which is nearly 10 points below his per-game average, because Garza, Kriener and Wieskamp helped to pick up the slack
Garza was determined to come back strong in the second half after having sat for much of the first half with two fouls.
"Just my mindset was when I get back out there I'm going to do whatever I can to help the team," Garza said. "Ryan did a terrific job of stepping up and being that guy. He helped us so much."
The Iowa players were also determined to make up for last season when Michigan defeated them three times, including in overtime at the Big Ten Tournament. The Wolverines would go on to lose to Villanova in the NCAA national championship game, while the Iowa players were left to stew over a disastrous season.
But last season's frustration and lack of success also has helped to fuel this season's resurgence.
"There's some wins that mean a lot," Garza said. "I think this is one of them, especially a team that ended our season last year. That's something we were all thinking about."