Big Ten schedule wears on Hawkeyes

BY BEN ROSS | JANUARY 22, 2014 5:00 AM

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Now that Ohio State has more or less decided to throw away any credibility in the Big Ten by losing its last four conference games, Iowa has the chance to get its biggest conference win to date this evening when it travels to Ann Arbor to take on No. 21 Michigan (13-4, 5-0). The Hawkeyes have lost nine of its last 10 contests at the Crisler Center, which the Wolverines call home, but this is the best team Iowa has fielded during that stretch. Michigan is no slouch, though.

The Maize and Blue had a shaky start to its season, losing games at Iowa State, a (now 12-5) University of Charlotte team, Duke, and Arizona. But Michigan now boasts a spotless conference record, its biggest win coming on Jan. 18 where it trounced Wisconsin in the nearly impossible to win Kohl Center.

Michigan is finding a way to win without its best player in preseason All-American forward Mitch McGary, who has been sidelined for the rest of the season following back surgery. Nik Stauskas averages 18 points and 4 assists a game for Michigan, and he had a career-high 23 at Wisconsin. Stopping him will be important if Iowa wants to build on its current No. 10 ranking in the AP polls.

The last time Iowa played in Ann Arbor featured a 95-67 trouncing, in which the Hawkeyes made just 40 percent of their field goals and were outscored by four Michigan players.

“Yeah, I don’t think — if you can’t get up to play against Michigan, then come on, there’s something wrong with you,” Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery said. “You’re at Michigan, they’re in the national championship game last year, they’re undefeated in our league. That should be enough.”

Both teams are coming off spectacular wins — Michigan with its triumph over Wisconsin and Iowa with a 20-point win over Minnesota after trailing at the half in Iowa City on Jan. 19. Iowa played arguably some of its best basketball against the Gophers, hitting 9-of-20 3-point attempts, racking up 43 bench points, and netting 27 points off turnovers — all that bodes well going into Michigan.

“Every game is big,” Devyn Marble said. “Every game means something, every game is important … I’ve seen [Michigan] a couple times over the season, and we’ll break them down in preparation for the game on Wednesday.”

Iowa seemingly had a signature road win at Ohio State on Jan. 12, when the Buckeyes were ranked No. 3 in the nation. Now that the Scarlet and Gray have imploded to epic proportions, tonight gives Iowa another chance of getting another victory away from home that will pad its NCAA Tournament résumé come March.

Iowa guard Josh Oglesby agrees.

“I think this is a huge win for us, especially after Minnesota did what they did to Ohio State. [Michigan] beat some good teams; they’re a terrific ball club,” Oglesby said. “Going into Michigan — they just beat Wisconsin — they’re going to be another good test for us; we just have to prepare like usually do. Going into Wisconsin is a tough place to win … It’s the Big Ten.”

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