By Shawn Gibbs
NEW YORK – Iowa faced Michigan for the third time this season and saved its best effort for the bright lights of Manhattan, but still came up just short, dropping a 77-71 heartbreaker in overtime in the second round of the Big Ten Tournament and bringing a frustrating season to a close.
Michigan tormented Iowa’s perimeter defenders in the two previous contests this season primarily by penetrating and finding open 3-point shooters on the wings. For a half though, Iowa held the Wolverine long-range attack in check as Michigan struggled shooting 0-7 from 3-pt range in the first half.
Iowa, meanwhile, spearheaded by Luka Garza’s 2-for-2 shooting from 3-pt range manage to go 5-for-9 from beyond the arc in the first half and led 40-35 at halftime.
Michigan found itself battling foul trouble throughout the first half, but Iowa, despite being in the bonus for the better part of eight minutes, managed only four free-throw attempts.
Following a torrid shooting performance against Illinois in the first round on Wednesday, for a half, the Hawkeyes looked like a rewind of the action from the day before as the Hawkeyes shot 55 percent from the field, including 55 percent from 3-point range in the first half.
Iowa finished the first half on a 14-4 run and with a five-point lead.
Michigan seized the momentum after the break, opening the second half with five consecutive layups and dunks to fuel a 11-0 run and a 46-40 lead.
"They’re long. They’re athletic. They’ve got veteran guys and they were physical and moved their feet,” Iowa coach Fran McCaffrey said of the Wolverines.
In an arena where some of the most famous boxing bouts have taken place, the Hawkeyes were reeling. But unlike other moments this season, the players managed to keep the game close. Michigan never led by more than seven points, but managed to hold a 67-61 lead with 2 minutes 9 seconds left in the second half.
However consecutive 3-point shots from Nicholas Baer and a dagger at the top of the key by Jordan Bohannon with 16 seconds remaining in regulation sent the game to overtime tied at 67.
“I was just happy to make one, they (Michigan) were frustrating me the entire game just limiting my looks and I finally got one to drop,” said Bohannon, who struggled with a hip injury in the second half.
Garza scored the first points in overtime, briefly giving the Hawkeyes a lead. But his field goal was the only basket Iowa could manage as it shot 1-for-9 in the extra period, and Michigan made just enough free throws to escape with the victory.
Sophomore forward Ryan Kriener gave the Hawkeyes a spark off the bench, shooting 6-for 7 from the field and finishing with 14 points.
“I try to play as hard as I can for as long as I can to the point where I’m just exhausted," Kriener said."II just wish we would have had a few of those shots fall down the stretch and we would have had a little bit different locker room right now.”
Iowa never has defeated Michigan in the Big Ten Tournament with and fell to 0-6 all time against the Wolverines in the annual event.
The Hawkeyes finished the season with a disappointing 14-19 record. In the locker room afteerwards, the players were trying to process the season past with an eye towards next fall.
“We really fought, they went on a 11-0 run in the second half, we would get a run and they would get a run, but we were able to come back from that and that’s a positive sign.” Garza said. "It hurts a lot, it’s hard to be that positive, but we will take all of this into the summer and let it fuel us to make sure there is a different outcome next year.”
Sophomore forward Tyler Cook was non-committal after the game about where he plans to return to Iowa next season. Rumors have persisted since late November that Cook would seek to transfer.