By Pat Harty
Fourth-ranked Michigan had very few answers for Luka Garza's offense, but the Wolverines had plenty of answers for Iowa’s sieve-like defense.
The end result was a 103-91 victory for Michigan in the Big Ten opener for both teams on Friday at Crisler Arena in Ann Arbor, Mich.
Garza finished with a career-high 44 points, including 27 in the first half, but it still wasn’t enough as only one other player for Iowa (Connor McCaffery with 12 points) scored in double figures, whereas the Wolverines had six players who scored at least 10 points.
It was the most points by an Iowa player in a game since Peter Jok scored 42 points against Memphis in 2016, and the third highest single-game total in program history.
John Johnson holds the school record for most points in a game at 49, which he set against Northwestern in 1970. He also scored 46 points Wisconsin-Milwaukee in 1968.
But on the flipside, it was also the most points that Michigan has scored against a Big Ten opponent since 1998.
It was also nearly double the amount of points that Michigan had scored in its previous game, which was a 58-43 loss at Louisville in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge this past Tuesday.
Iowa radio play-by-play announcer Gary Dolphin congratulated Garza for his performance, during the Learfield post-game radio show but Garza clearly had mixed emotions.
"I definitely would've much rather had the W, but thank you," Garza said.
Garza said he benefitted from Michigan's defense that was designed to contain Iowa's perimeter shooters. He rarely faced double teams and made the Wolverines pay for it.
"I think they really game planned to stay out on our shooters and not help in at all and let me go one-on-one with whatever big the threw out thgere," Garza said.
Michigan improved to 8-1 under first-year head coach Juwan Howard, while Iowa fell to 6-3 and 0-1 in the conference.
Iowa’s performance on defense in Friday’s game was similar to two seasons ago when the Hawkeyes struggled big time on defense whiule finishing 4-14 in conference play.
Michigan shot a blistering 55.8 percent from the field, with many of its baskets coming on wide open attempts from 3-point range and from easy shots in the paint.
The Wolverines also had 12-point advantage in bench points.
Iowa point guard Jordan Bohannon made a 3-point basket that cut the deficit to 85-76 with less than 4 minutes to play, but Michigan point guard Greg Simpson answered with a trey just seconds later, pushing the lead to 88-76 with less than three minutes to play.
Michigan led by double figures for much of the second half, but couldn’t pull away until the final minutes.
And with Iowa’s ability to make 3-point shots in bunches, and with Garza dominating inside, and with the Wolverines in foul trouble, the deficit never seemed insurmountable until the very end.
Iowa was in the bonus in the second half with more than 11 minutes still left to play.
Michigan center Jon Teske also went to the bench with his fourth foul with 11:15 remaining, and Michigan point guard Greg Simpson sat for a long stretch in the second half with three fouls.
And yet, the Wolverines still found a way to prevail.
Simpson made a 3-point basket to give Michigan a 21-13 lead with 12:36 left in the first half.
Garza then made two free throws and a short put-back off the glass that sliced the deficit to 21-17 with slightly more than 12 minutes left in the first half.
He had scored 11 consecutive points for Iowa at that stage.
Michigan was leading 43-35 when Bohannon made a deep three from beyond the top of the key with 2:46 left before halftime.
It was Bohannon’s first basket of the game, and it shifted the momentum back to Iowa’s side after Michigan had led by 10 points.
But then Michigan responded with a 7-0 scoring run to close the first half.
Isaiah Livers made a 3-point basket that expanded Michigan’s lead to 50-38 with 36 seconds left in the first half.
That was Michigan’s biggest lead of the first half.
Iowa’s defense left much to be desired in the first half as Michigan shot 54.8 percent from the field and was on pace to score 100 points at halftime.
More proof of Garza’s dominance in the first half is that Iowa only attempted four 3-point shots in the first half.
Garza also had a shot nearly go in at the buzzer, but it was one of the few misses to a masterful 20-minute performance.
Freshman guard C.J. Fredrick and junior forward Cordell Pemsl both played in Friday's game and scored six and two points, respectively. They both missed Tuesday's game at Syracuse due to minior injuries.
As for Bohannon, he now has two games left to play in the first semester without exhausting his eligibility for next season. He could play in a total of 10 games in the first semester and still redshirt under NCAA rules.
Iowa’s next two games against Minnesota on Monday at Carver-Hawkeye Arena, and at Iowa State on Thursday, are key matchups for obvious reasons.
Bohannon could play in both games, and then shut it down and still have a full season of eligibility remaining.
Most of the speculation and rumors have him doing that.
But he was Michigan’s problem on Friday, and Garza was an even bigger problem, figuratively and literally.