IOWA CITY, Iowa - Some people will point to hot shooting as the reason for Iowa's 85-67 blowout of Michigan Saturday. Others will credit suffocating defense. Both aspects were big.
It really came down to desire, however. It made everything else for the talented team possible. The Hawkeyes played with more energy than the opponent, something that couldn't be said in in their previous two home games.
The Wolverines scored the game's first two points. It would be their only lead. They ran into a motivated team that fed off of an electric crowd at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
Michigan enjoyed a few stretches of solid play. The rest of the game was a mismatch. Its previous largest margin of defeat was 10 at Duke. The Hawkeyes led by 27 with seven minutes left in the contest.
"Iowa punched us early and it was hard to respond," Michigan Coach John Beilein said.
The Wolverines (17-6 overall, 9-2 Big Ten) had won at Michigan State, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Nebraska this season and were tied for first place with the Spartans heading into Saturday's game. Iowa dropped its last two home games to MSU and Ohio State. All of that magnifies the degree of the Hawkeyes' accomplishment.
"We just wanted to get back to playing our game, playing together and finally putting on a good show in front of our crowd," Junior Forward Aaron White said. "We've been lacking that the past two games against Michigan State and Ohio State. Obviously we didn't execute great but it's been a lack of energy for whatever reason.
"We weren't really getting after it on the defensive end. We were kind of going too much one-on-one on offense. Today, it was the exact opposite of that. Everyone got after it on the defensive end. We shared the basketball."
Iowa (18-6, 7-4) tallied 22 assists on 29 baskets and turned the ball over just seven times. It connected on 10 of 17 three-point attempts after making just three of 20 Tuesday night against Ohio State.
Senior Roy Devyn Marble, a Big Ten player of the year candidate, carried the Hawkeye offense early. The Detroit native drained treys for the team's first three baskets for a 9-4 lead in a raucous Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
"I was upset individually and as a team with how we came out against Ohio State," said Marble, who finished with 26 points, 22 of which came in the first half. "The lack of energy was unacceptable. I just told the guys we're going to come out here and play hard. If we win, we win, if we lose, we loss, but you won't be able to doubt our toughness and our energy on both ends of the court."
Marble also locked up Michigan star guard Nik Stauskas, who torched Iowa with 26 points, five rebounds and five assists in a 75-67 Wolverine win Jan. 22 in Ann Arbor. He scored 10 on 3 of 6 shooting, had two rebounds and four turnovers without an assist Saturday.
"They made a lot of adjustments," Stauskas said. "They did some switches and hedges on our ball screens, which made things difficult. They denied me the ball and then when I tried to drive all of their guys were in the gaps. They were trying to clog up the lane which made it tough for me to penetrate."
Iowa centers Adam Woodbury and Gabe Olaseni, in particular, performed well in hedging off their man on ball screens for Stauskus. They then held Wolverine centers, Jordan Morgan and Jon Horford, to a combined five points and eight rebounds while teaming up for 15 and eight, themselves.
"If you look around the nation, not many bigs are doing that," Woodbury said. "It's not very easy. It takes a lot of energy and effort to do that consistently every time they set a ball screen. I think me and Gabe are capable of doing that on a night in and night out basis."
After allowing the Buckeyes 45, second-half points on Tuesday, the Hawkeyes clamped down on Michigan, who came into the game leading the Big Ten with a 51.1 field goal percentage in conference games. The Wolverines shot 22 of 52 (42.3) from the floor, including just 9 of 25 (36.0) from behind the arc, on Saturday.
"It was their defense that won them the game," Beilein said. "Defensively, they played tremendous."
That defense sparked the offense. Even though the Hawkeyes only held an 11-7 advantage on transition points, they succeeded on the secondary break. That's where Marble got loose for his early three-point barrage.
Mike Gesell continued his strong play for Iowa. The sophomore point guard scored 10 points, handed out eight assists against one turnover and added three steals.
"We talk about Dev, but Mike was absolutely spectacular," Iowa Coach Fran McCaffery said. "He had (three) steals, he could have had a lot more. Got his hands on the ball, he was really, really competitive."
Iowa, once again, displayed resiliency. The Hawkeyes, along with Michigan and Michigan State, are the only conference teams to avoid a losing streak in league play. They haven't lost back-to-back games all season, in fact.
"We have a belief in ourselves that there's never any panic and I think we have a willingness to look within ourselves and say, okay, we lost, we are not a group of finger pointers," McCaffery said. "They don't blame each other, they don't blame me. They look at the film and they study it and try to get better and they are honest with themselves. I think if you do that, you are more likely to be able to come back and play better in the next game."
A popular national sports outlet showed a photo of the Iowa team on its front page before Saturday's game. It's headline indicated that the Hawkeyes had their backs against the wall after the Michigan State and Ohio State home losses.
"We've had a good season and if we lost today it's not like our season was over with," White said. "I could see where they're coming from. We've had some disappointing games at home against top tier teams. We kind of needed to get a good win against a good opponent. But by no means did any of us feel that way (that their backs were against a wall)."
The Hawkeyes were motivated by other things. It was their last game until heading to Penn State on Feb. 15.
"We really needed this win," White said with a smile. "A lot of the guys won't tell you this, but you don't want to go into a whole week off after a disappointing performance. That might have had something to do with it.
"We just got back to basics having fun playing basketball. We stopped worrying about what everyone is saying about us and just had fun."