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January 21, 2014

Wolverines ready to run with Iowa

When Michigan coach John Beilein talked about the rigors of the current stretch of games the Wolverines are currently in, he wasn't over exaggerating.

After knocking off then-No. 3 Wisconsin, 77-70, in Madison Saturday, the team's first win at Wisconsin since 1999, Michigan is gearing up for another top 10 test Wednesday, when No. 10 Iowa comes to Ann Arbor.

And not only are the Wolverines moving on from one tough test to another, they are facing a wildly different style than they did a few days ago in Madison.

The Badgers are a deliberate team, focused on controlling the pace of the game and finding open baskets. They rank No. 318 nationally in possessions per game, averaging just 65.9.

The Hawkeyes, on the other hand, want to run, push the pace and find as many transition opportunities as possible. They rank No. 17 nationally and first in the Big Ten in possessions per game (75.5).

"They are going to test our discipline," fifth-year senior forward Jordan Morgan said. "They're trying to score quickly. We have to be really good in transition, and they're really bent on attacking the rim. We have to be solid defensively. They draw a lot of fouls, and we don't like to foul. It's going to come down to a battle of wills at the end of the day."

As Morgan mentioned, Iowa's aggressive, fast-paced offense has forced a plethora of mistakes from its opponents.

For starters, defenses haven't been able to keep up. The Hawkeyes rank third nationally and first in the Big Ten in scoring offense (86.8 points per game), finding quick scoring chances in transition and utilizing 7-1 sophomore center Adam Woodbury in the post.

Also, Iowa's aggressive style has drawn a lot of fouls. The Hawkeyes rank first in the Big Ten and sixth nationally in opponent fouls per game, drawing an average of 23.7 fouls per game.

"I don't believe you can focus on not fouling, because it's counterproductive," Morgan said. "But you have to play solid defense, which has been a focus for our team in general all year, and we have been growing in that area a lot.

"I think we just have to focus on the details. We have been doing a really good job of preparing, and we are getting better and better at knowing our scouting reports and things like that. We have grown a lot in that area. It is going to be challenging? Yes, but we have faced a lot of challenges this year that have kind of prepared us for it. A tough nonconference season has really helped us out in the Big Ten."

Beilein compared Iowa stylistically and athletically to No. 1 Arizona, which beat the Wolverines in Crisler Arena, 72-70, Dec. 14.

"I think we played a pretty good game against Arizona," Morgan reflected. "We just had a few lapses here and there defensively, especially down the stretch, and we couldn't close that game out. They're going to be physical, just like Arizona was. And they have a lot of size, like Arizona, and they're looking to attack. Hopefully that game prepared us for what we'll see tomorrow."

But the Hawkeyes' style may play right into what the Wolverines want to do.

"They want to push the ball," sophomore forward Glenn Robinson III said. "We have to get defensive stops, and that is going ot lead to long rebounds. They like to shoot quick threes in transition, but we also like to get out in transition. That is kind of our game, getting up and down. But the point guards, Derrick and Spike, have been doing a great job of slowing the ball down when we need to. And when it is time to speed up, Derrick is getting a lot better at pushing the ball when he sees open floor.

"We both like to get out in transition and score easy points. It is going to come down to who can get the most stops. Our goal is to stop them in transition, because we know that is what they like to do. The key is going to be boxing out and getting rebounds. Our goal is to not let them get too many offensive rebounds. I think we did a great job stopping Wisconsin last game."

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