ANN ARBOR, Mich. Questions tend to linger around a basketball program when vices turn into habits.
Toughness, intensity and effort are intangibles that Iowa Coach Fran McCaffery expects from his team. Yet when they are lacking, like in Sunday's 95-67 loss at No. 2 Michigan, they bubble up and blister.
McCaffery drilled his troops on defensive intensity while preparing for Michigan. At halftime, after Iowa allowed an 8-0 run to go down 46-35, McCaffery refocused his team's defensive mindset. He reminded them about defense before they took the court in the second half. And the Wolverines promptly tore it apart.
After Michigan (15-0, 2-0 Big Ten) scored on four of its first five possessions after ending the first half with points on 13 consecutive scoring opportunities McCaffery pulled his starters for five reserves. It barely helped.
"I don't like to do that because it tends to highlight the players, and I don't like to do that in a negative way," McCaffery said. "'OK, we're losing because of you five guys right now.' I don't like to be that guy.
"What was upsetting to me was the focal point of our halftime discussion and the discussion right before we went back on the floor was the first three or four possessions defensively to start the second half. So that was why I made the change."
They all returned, but it was too late. Over a stretch lasting 23 minutes and six seconds, Michigan scored on 33 of 41 possessions. Over the last 27 minutes, Michigan scored 78 points. The Wolverines sizzled with nine dunks and shot 58.1 percent for the game. Overall Michigan had 24 assists on 36 baskets.
Michigan point guard Trey Burke scored 19 points and had 12 assists in 33 minutes. Iowa struggled to contain him or any of his teammates.
"We weren't executing our plans," Iowa guard Devyn Marble said. "(McCaffery would) call one thing and guys were running another. Miscommunication and stuff like that. But really just the effort though. We'll get that corrected."
"You just have to have that deep down in you. You have to get that out yourself."
Iowa (11-4, 0-2 Big Ten) started strong, taking a 7-0 lead two minutes into the game. For most of the first half, the Hawkeyes answered every Michigan attempt to pull away with a basket of their own. However that allowed them to settle into bad habits late in the first half.
Iowa sophomore Aaron White attempted a dunk but was rejected by Michigan forward Mitch McGary at the rim. The Wolverines took off on a fast break that led to a Burke layup and a 33-29 Michigan lead.
The Hawkeyes scored on their next three offensive trips but couldn't sustain it. Michigan ended the half with four free throws, a dunk from Tim Hardaway Jr. and a layup at the buzzer from Glenn Robinson III.
"We can't be satisfied with trading baskets," Iowa freshman Anthony Clemmons said. "After we score, we have to try to come back and have in our mindset that we have to stop them."
"I think we put too much pressure on our offense at that point in time and then we gave them opportunities and we were scrambled defensively in transition," McCaffery said. "We seemed to be a team that tries to stem the tide when the other team is making a run with our offense and you have to do it with your defense. You can't expect to come down a make a 3 and then make another two and do it that way, especially against a team of this caliber."
Statistics now are unfriendly for the Hawkeyes. The 28-point defeat was Iowa's second-worst at Michigan in the series' 92-year history. It's the second time this season the team has given up 95 points in a road loss. It was also was just the second true road game for Iowa as well.
"I did think we were beyond this point," Marble said. "I guess I was wrong."