March 12, 2009
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- Even before the game, DeShawn Sims' teammates could tell he was going to come up big.
Did he ever.
Sims scored 16 points in the first nine minutes of the game, and Iowa could never recover. Sims finished with 27, two shy of his career high, to lead Michigan's 73-45 rout of the Hawkeyes on Thursday in the first round of the Big Ten tournament.
"DeShawn got them off to an early start and they got rolling from there," said Jake Kelly, who finished with 10 points and seven rebounds. "He gave them confidence, and from there everybody felt comfortable knocking down their shots."
Comfortable? All the Wolverines were missing were a couple of couches and some chips.
They shot 59 percent against one of the top defenses in the country, including 14-of-27 from 3-point range, and had 22 assists. Manny Harris chipped in 18 points and seven boards, and six other Michigan players scored. They never trailed, and had a double-digit lead the last 25 minutes.
It's the second straight year Michigan has knocked Iowa (15-17) out in the first round, and it keeps the Wolverines' hopes of an NCAA tournament berth alive. The Wolverines (20-12) will play second-seeded Illinois in Friday's quarterfinals.
"I've sensed that the last month we've been trying to find a rhythm and get to a rhythm where people really felt comfortable with each other," Michigan coach John Beilein said. "And even though it resulted in a couple of losses, I felt that we've been playing pretty well. But I didn't expect us to play this well."
Especially not after the last game with Iowa. The teams met in Iowa City late last month, and the Hawkeyes needed overtime to win 70-60.
But this one wasn't even a contest, thanks to Sims.
The junior was one of the first people Beilein called when he took the Michigan job two years ago, and Sims promised that not only would he support his new coach, he'd do whatever it took to turn the program around. He's energetic and personable, and his enthusiasm spills over to the rest of the team.
Oh, he can play, too.
His flurry of early shots gave Michigan a 25-9 lead and, no matter what Iowa tried, the Hawkeyes couldn't dig themselves out of that hole. Iowa shot 33 percent, and turned the ball over 17 times. Cyrus Tate, who missed much of the season with an ankle injury, led the Hawkeyes with 12 points.
"Sick," coach Todd Lickliter answered when a reporter began a question with "How do you feel?"
"This is a team that has competed throughout the season at a good level. Seldom have they been in a situation like this," Lickliter said. "We ran into a team that we just couldn't challenge them. It started off early and it was just one of those things where we didn't have an answer for them defensively."
Sims would score only two more points, on free throws, the rest of the half, but it didn't matter. His 18 points at the half were just one fewer than the entire Michigan team, and the Wolverines also got contributions from Harris, David Merritt and Stu Douglass.
Iowa tried to stem Michigan's momentum at the start of the second when Kelly sparked a 7-0 run. But Sims put an emphatic end to any hope Iowa might have had. He scored on a jumper, Douglass added another 3 and Sims brought the Michigan fans to their feet with a thunderous dunk off an alley-oop from Harris.
"The last four or five games, I've been in the mind-set where my teammates, my coaches, even my family, has been keeping me confident and telling me things that I need to do just for the team to be successful," Sims said. "I'm just trying to execute that and play to the best of my ability."
After seven winning seasons, Iowa finishes with a losing record for a second straight year.
"It's hard when you're competing to gauge your progress if you're not winning. But they've set a foundation that I think we can build upon," Lickliter said. "It's not the year we wanted, but the way they played, the way they approached it, I'm proud of this team. It's a tough way to end, but I'm proud of the way this team has responded throughout the year."