CHICAGO — Take away 3-point shots, and Friday’s Iowa-Michigan Big Ten men’s basketball tournament quarterfinal would have been a nail-biter. Maybe.
But the 3s rained in for the 11th-ranked Wolverines as long as they needed them, while Iowa shot its bombs with no aplomb. Michigan made 10 3s in the first 25 minutes of its 74-53 romp over the Hawkeyes at the United Center. Iowa was 1 of 16 from behind the arc, not making one until walk-on Nicolas Hobbs banked one in with 1:07 left.
The loss was Iowa’s fifth in its last six games, four of them by at least 14 points and three by 20 or more. This was a far cry from its 74-59 home win over Michigan on Feb. 1. Of course, the Wolverines made just 8 of 33 threes in that contest.
The Hawkeyes (22-11) will learn Sunday when and where they’ll make their first NCAA tournament appearance in the last three years. If prominent bracketologists are to be believed, Iowa will be in an 8/9 game in the first round, with some superpower No. 1-seed almost surely awaiting the winner in Round 2.
No. 11 Michigan improved to 27-5, and will play Minnesota here in the second game of Saturday’s semifinals. Michigan State will face Wisconsin in the opener. Iowa is sitting out the semis for the 13th-straight year.
Behind stellar play from junior Zavier Simpson, Michigan bolted to a 40-27 halftime lead. Simpson, a second-team All-Big Ten selection by coaches and media, had eight points and eight assists by intermission and finished with 10 and 11.
Simpson’s last-minute 3-pointer capped the first half’s scoring and closed a 13-4 Michigan run that opened up a tight game. The Wolverines used 3-pointers by Jordan Poole, Ignas Brazdeikis and Eli Brooks in the first four minutes of the second half to stretch the lead to 17 points, and it grew as large as 26.
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A 3-pointer by Big Ten Freshman of the Year Brazdeikis with 17:46 left in the first half put Michigan in front not only for the first time, but for keeps.
The story of the first half was the 3-point shooting. Or, in Iowa’s case, a lack of it. Michigan made 7 of 16 3s in the half, with five different players getting at least one. The Hawkeyes missed all eight of theirs, with six different players coming up short ... or long.
Starting guards Jordan Bohannon, Isaiah Moss and Joe Wieskamp combined for just two points in the half. Bohannon finished scoreless. Iowa was led by Tyler Cook and Luka Garza, who had 14 points each.
Unlike in its 83-62 win over Illinois here Thursday, Iowa’s passing and ballhandling were none too great against the Wolverines. Iowa had five assists and seven turnovers in the first half compared to Michigan’s 13 and 1.
Jon Teske, a 7-foot-1 junior center, was ineffective in the first Michigan-Iowa game, picking up two fouls in the game’s first three minutes and fouling out after having played just 13 minutes. But he had a foul-free first half Friday, and tallied eight points before the break.
This was the seventh time the Wolverines and Hawkeyes have met in this tournament. Michigan has won each time. It also set a tournament record with its ninth-straight victory, and needs two more here for an unprecedented third-consecutive crown.
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