INDIANAPOLIS — So much for happy endings.
The feel-good moments stopped last weekend for Iowa’s men’s basketball team. Michigan brought nothing but basketball terrorism. The Wolverines were simply Sims-ational.
Junior DeShawn Sims shredded Iowa on Thursday. He scored Michigan’s first 14 points and led the Wolverines to a 73-45 win at Conseco Fieldhouse in the Big Ten Tournament’s first round. The loss ended Iowa’s season at 15-17, the second straight season Iowa lost to Michigan in the league tournament. It was Iowa’s second-worst loss under Coach Todd Lickliter and a game in which Iowa failed to mount a serious challenge for the last 30 minutes.
“This is a team that has competed throughout the season at a good level,” Lickliter said. “Seldom have they been in a situation like this. “But today was … we ran into a team that … we just couldn’t challenge them. It started off early. And just it was one of those things where we didn’t have an answer for them defensively.”
Sims scored 27 points overall, including 18 in the first half — one point less than Iowa. At 6-foot-8 and athletic, Sims was a tough match-up for Iowa’s inside players. Iowa tried to guard Sims with at least four different players, but none were effective.
Senior Cyrus Tate, who played his last game for Iowa, was at a loss for why Sims was so effective.
“It’s not much from what he’s doing in the past, but he’s got a real good rhythm, and he got real comfortable and he’s hard to guard,” Tate said.
Iowa trailed 8-7 with 14 minutes, 59 seconds left in the first half, then Michigan’s momentum pendulum shattered Iowa’s defense. Michigan scored on seven straight possessions on a 17-2 run and took a 25-9 lead. It just got worse from there for Iowa. After a pair of Iowa 3-pointers, Michigan finished the first half on a 15-4 run. The Wolverines maintained their lead through the second half while resting Sims and all-Big Ten first-team guard Manny Harris for large chunks.
Sims sat out after he loudly complained to an official over a foul. He was embarrassed after the game.
“I just spazzed out for a second,” Sims said. “Coach (John Beilein) calmed me down and I forgot about it after that. … He didn’t want me to get a (technical), because sometimes I’m a little crazy.”
It was a thorough whipping in every sense. Michigan hit 59.2 percent of its shots from the field and outscored Iowa 24-2 off turnovers. To go along with their 29 baskets, Michigan had 22 assists. Iowa committed 17 turnovers and shot just 33 percent.
“It seemed like they came out a little more motivated than we did,” Iowa freshman Matt Gatens said. “We prepared the same way we had all season, and we thought we were ready to play, but they were more ready to play.”
Michigan also clamped down on Iowa’s offense. Sophomore guard Jake Kelly, who had scored at least 17 points in last seven games, was stopped at 10 points on 3-of-11 shooting. Gatens hit 1 of 10 and scored two points. Beilein praised defenders C.J. Lee, who defended Kelly, and especially Harris, who held Gatens in check.
“Manny’s job on Gatens was pretty good. Gatens can play,” Beilein said. “(Gatens is) not just a shooter; he can take it to the basket. (Harris) did a wonderful job on him.”
Gatens said Michigan changed the way it defended after Iowa’s overtime victory against the Wolverines a couple of weeks ago.
“As a team it seemed like they were handling our ball screens a little differently than we had been and they kind of surprised us,” Gatens said. “We tried to adjust, but it wasn’t enough.
“I felt like I could get in there a lot; I just didn’t finish my shots. (Harris) did a good job on both ends of the floor.”
Iowa won two more games this season than last year, but lost one more Big Ten game (6-12 last year, 5-13 this year). The Hawkeyes suffered their first back-to-back losing seasons since 1973-74 and 1974-75. Lickliter all but ruled out competing in one of two lower-level postseason tournaments and instead is looking ahead to the team’s overseas trip to Italy and Greece in May.
“That should be our postseason,” Lickliter said. “At this point is what I’m looking at.”