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Michigan Tries To Keep Dwindling NCAA Tournament Hopes Alive In Iowa City

(Sports Network Preview): A pair of teams hoping to pick up a head of steam as they look ahead to the upcoming Big Ten Conference Tournament meet in Iowa City today, as the Michigan Wolverines tangle with the Iowa Hawkeyes.

Michigan recently had a three-game win streak stopped with a 54-52 loss at Illinois on Wednesday night, dropping the team to 16-11 on the year and 6-8 in the Big Ten. The Wolverines have won just three of their eight true road games this season, but they have split their last four.

Iowa hasn't enjoyed the kind of season it had hoped in head coach Fran McCaffery's first year at the helm, but the team does boast some talent. Still, at 10-16 overall and just 3-11 in conference, fans are growing increasingly impatient. A 73-70 loss at Northwestern on Thursday night was the third straight for the Hawkeyes, and the fifth in the last seven games. Iowa is just 7-7 at home in 2010-11, a stark contrast to years past when Carver- Hawkeye Arena was a brutal place to play for the opposition.

Michigan knocked off Iowa, 87-73, last month in Ann Arbor to take an 88-57 lead in the all-time series. The Wolverines beat the Hawkeyes three times last season, and with this year's win have now come out on top in each of the last five, and in eight of the last nine meetings overall.

Both Michigan and Iowa rank near the bottom of the Big Ten in scoring offense, the Wolverines averaging 66.4 ppg and the Hawkeyes 67.3 ppg. Michigan is shooting 44.6 percent from the field, 34.8 percent from three-point range and 68.3 percent from the foul line. Defensively, the Maize and Blue are permitting 62.8 ppg on typical shooting efforts of 43.3 percent overall and 33.0 percent from downtown. Darius Morris and Tim Hardaway, Jr. are the only two players netting double figures on a consistent basis for UM, checking in with 15.2 and 12.6 ppg, respectively, while Zack Novak (9.2 ppg) and Jordan Morgan (9.1 ppg) have been productive at times and are close to joining the ranks. The Wolverines battled back from a 10-point halftime deficit, but still came up short in their bid to win at Illinois earlier this week. Neither team got into a rhythm from long range, combining to go just 6-of-36 on three- pointers, and Michigan shot a mere 37.3 percent from the field overall. Morgan was high man for the Wolverines with his 12 points, while Morris filled out his stat line with 11 points, seven assists and six rebounds. Hardaway, Jr. finished with 10 point and five helpers.

As mentioned, the Hawkeyes are anything but an offensive force, and they are shooting 44.4 percent from the floor and 33.0 percent from beyond the arc. Even though they are six games under .500 on the year, they own favorable margins, albeit narrowly, in scoring (+0.5), rebounding (+1.5) and turnovers (+0.2). Matt Gatens is the team's leading scorer, but at just 12.5 ppg he isn't going to make opposing coaches lose sleep as they try and figure out a way to defend him. Bryce Cartwright (11.0 ppg) and Melsahn Basabe (10.6 ppg) are both averaging double figures as well, and Cartwright serves as the team's primary playmaker (5.6 apg) and Basabe its top rebounder (7.0 rpg). Iowa drained 51.7 percent of its total shots and won the battle on the boards (38-32), but those efforts weren't enough as Northwestern prevailed in a 73-70 final two nights ago in Evanston, Illinois. Jarryd Cole led the Hawkeyes with 17 points and eight boards, while four others finished in double figures as well. Cartwright's night consisted of a near double-double as he scored 10 points and handed out nine assists.

Michigan is the better team in this matchup, at least on paper, but that's not to say the Hawkeyes can't pull out a win at home. In fact, let's give the nod to the Hawkeyes who need some sort of positive to help offset the slew of negatives they've had to endure.

GAME NOTES: A pair of teams hoping to pick up a head of steam as they look ahead to the upcoming Big Ten Conference Tournament meet in Iowa City today, as the Michigan Wolverines tangle with the Iowa Hawkeyes.

FACTS & STATS: Site: Carver-Hawkeye Arena (15,500) -- Iowa City, Iowa. Television: Big Ten Network. Home Record: Michigan 13-4, Iowa 7-7. Away Record: Michigan 3-5, Iowa 2-7. Neutral Record: Michigan 0-2, Iowa 1-2. Conference Record: Michigan 6-8, Iowa 3-11. Series Record: Michigan leads, 88-57.

Saturday, February 19th, 4:35 p.m. (et)

Iowa 66, Michigan 64