GAME NOTES: The second-ranked Michigan Wolverines attempt to keep their perfect season alive on Sunday afternoon when they play host to the Iowa Hawkeyes in a Big Ten Conference showdown at the Crisler Center.
Thanks to a five-game winning streak in November and a six-game spurt in December, Iowa has gotten off to an impressive 11-3 start this season. The Hawkeyes have only played one true road game however, dropping a 95-79 decision at Virginia Tech on Nov. 27.
This matchup will mark the Hawkeyes' second straight game against a top five opponent, as they lost a home heartbreaker at the hands of Indiana in their conference opener, 69-65. They kept their deficit to single-digits for most of the second half, even getting the contest to one-possession on several occasions, but Indiana shot 4-of-6 from the foul line in the final 30 seconds to seal the win. Despite playing strong field goal percentage defense against the high-power Hoosiers (.400), the Hawkeyes were unable to take advantage, as it shot just 33.3 percent from the floor, including 3-of-17 from 3-point range. Aaron White led the way in the setback with 15 points, while Roy Devyn Marble (14 points, nine rebounds) and Mike Gesell (13 points) were also productive.
At 14-0, Michigan is one of just four remaining unbeaten teams in Division I, joining Duke, Arizona, and Wyoming. It marks the program's second-best start in school history behind only the 1985-86 campaign when it began the year 16-0. Its dominance at the Crisler Center has been well-documented over the past two seasons, as it has dropped just one of its last 25 home games.
The Wolverines opened up their league schedule on Thursday night in dominating fashion, going on the road to dismantle a nine-win Northwestern squad, 94-66. The shooting effort was nothing short of spectacular, as the team made just shy of 60 percent of their field goal attempts (including 13-of-22 from beyond the arc) and all five starters scored in double figures. Trey Burke (23 points) and Tim Hardaway, Jr. (21 points) connected on four 3-pointers apiece and the two combined for nine assists to just four turnovers. Jordan Morgan tallied a double-double with 12 points and a career-high 13 rebounds, while Glenn Robinson III and Nik Stauskas each netted 10 points.
Michigan holds a 89-58 advantage in the all-time series over its long-time rival, and even though it has won eight of the past 10 meetings, Iowa claimed the last matchup, 75-59, in Iowa City on Jan. 14, 2012.
Iowa has been stellar on both ends of the floor all season long, scoring the fourth-most points in the conference (76.1 ppg), while allowing opponents to net just 61.7 ppg. Marble has been the team's most consistent source of points, putting up 15.6 ppg while also contributing 4.5 rpg, 2.9 apg, and 0.9 spg. White (13.7 ppg, 6.4 rpg) is the only other Hawkeye to score double- digits on a nightly basis, but they rely on a deep rotation in which 10 players tally at least 3.3 ppg.
Michigan has been dominant in all facets of the game from the very start of the season. Not only does it rank 13th in the nation in scoring (81.1 ppg), but it holds opponents to just 59.0 ppg, while turning the ball over less than 10 times per contest and boasting a fantastic +9.1 rebounding margin. One of the strongest starting-fives in the nation is anchored by Burke, who scores 18.1 ppg and ranks eighth in the country in handing out 7.2 apg. Hardaway, Jr. (16.2 ppg) is also a potent scorer, and Stauskas (13.6 ppg) is deadly from 3- point range, draining 41 triples at a 53.9 percent clip. Robinson nets 11.9 ppg on nearly 59 percent shooting and grabs a team-high 5.9 rpg.
As well as Iowa has played this season, it is going to have to play a near- perfect game if it even has a chance at downing the Wolverines on the road. Michigan's run shows no signs of slowing down, and it will use another highly efficient and balanced effort to defeat another strong team in this one.