Sunday, November 17, 2013

No. 7 Michigan 70, Iowa State 77: Hilton Magic

No. 7 Michigan 70, Iowa State 77

The pace in the first half was exactly as advertised: lightning fast, a speed which seemed to become augmented by the sheer loudness of the Hilton Coliseum.

Iowa State got on the board first, but Michigan's hot shooting in the first minutes propelled it to a 22-13 lead almost halfway through the first half. The Wolverines couldn't miss, but that deadeye shooting came to an abrupt end, as the Wolverines went on to go scoreless for about four and half minutes of play.

Iowa State dominated Michigan on the boards in the first half, especially Melvin Ejim, who scored 12 points and reeled in five boards in the opening 20 minutes.

Mitch McGary's return to the floor was almost as successful as Ejim's. McGary took a couple of minutes to find himself, but, once he did, he did all of the things that made him a big name at the end of last season. The sophomore led Michigan with 8 points on 4-of-6 shooting in the first half, including a slick finish in transition.

Down 35-34 at the half, Michigan would need to do some combination of the following: 1) Check Ejim 2) Start hitting the 3-point shot again 3) Continue hitting up the pick and roll for easy buckets.

The Hilton Coliseum sounded like it was emitting the fiendish roar of a fleet of fighter jets, and one can only imagine what it sounded like to freshman point guard Derrick Walton Jr., who committed a pair of turnovers in the first half.

Keyed by its defense, the Wolverines went on a 9-0 run early in the second half, including a thunderous Glenn Robinson III dunk in transition. Of course, it would only take one big play from the Cyclones to wake up the crowd, but the run was an encouraging sign for a Wolverine squad that struggled to end the first half.

Nik Stauskas slammed home a monstrous dunk at the 8:53 mark, a moment brought to you by Not Just A Shooter Inc. However, Ejim anwered from downtown at the other end.

Michigan continued to stay a bucket or two ahead, but also continued to have no answer for Ejim, who had 22 with just under eight minutes left in the game.

A 10-0 Cyclone run gave them a 5-point lead with just over five minutes to play. Michigan was scuffling on the offensive end, and the pace was leading to some questionable decisions with the ball.

Michigan drew within one late after a Stauskas three and an assist to Robinson for an easy layup. However, Caris LeVert, matched up against Georges Niang, got beat on the low block for a pair of crushing buckets.

Without Trey Burke to save the day, Michigan had to start firing from beyond the arc; unfortunately, the shots did not fall when it counted.

In truth, this was a difficult game for Michigan to win if you had ignored the Wolverines' shiny No. 7 ranking. Iowa State can play, especially at home.

What is actually somewhat concerning is that Michigan was beaten on the boards far too often despite having a size advantage; that will be emphasized in practice in the coming week, I'm sure.

Mitch McGary was also mostly shut down in the second half, but that's probably to be expected from a guy getting his first minutes of the season. Barring any injury-related setbacks, McGary should be rounding into form by the time Michigan begins its Big Ten schedule on Jan. 2 at The Barn.

A loss is a loss. With that said, Michigan's young players gained a valuable bit of experience playing against solid competition in a difficult environment. That might not be what Michigan fans want to hear right now, but, as always, it's March that counts, not November.

The first loss is always tough. However, the good thing for this young Michigan squad is that a college basketball season is a marathon, not a sprint.

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