Big Ten Tournament, First Round: Sims sparkles as Michigan routs Iowa, tightens hold on NCAA bid
DeShawn Sims couldn't miss. As a result, the Iowa Hawkeyes never had a chance.
Sims, a fabulously talented forward who is playing his best basketball at the right time of year, scored 27 points on white-hot 12-of-15 shooting to give seventh-seeded Michigan an easy 73-45 win over tenth-seeded Iowa in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament at Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.
If there was any uncertainty about the Maize and Blue's NCAA Tournament status, it vanished after this 28-point pounding. More than anyone else in the Wolverines' lineup, it was Sims who dispelled those doubts at the very beginning of this contest.
Before anyone's seat was warm in the home of the Indiana Pacers, Sims paced John Beilein's ballclub by scoring all of Michigan's first 14 points. Sims went on to hit each of his first eight field goal attempts before "cooling off" and settling for his 12-of-15 perforance, a mere 80-percent clip that paled in comparison to his perfect start in the game's first several minutes. Led by Sims, Michigan shot 68 percent from the field in the first half, as the white-shirted Wolverines--the designated home team as the higher seed at a neutral site--coasted to a 40-19 halftime bulge and were never threatened the rest of the way.
Sims's huge numbers on Thursday should not be viewed as an aberration. Beilein's prized post player is now 40-of-60 from the field (a sizzling 67 percent) in Michigan's past four games. It's little surprise, then, that the Wolverines have won three of those four tussles to go from the bad side of the bubble to the wonderful world known as "Lock-Ville." During the course of the Big Ten season, Sims and his teammates were markedly inconsistent on a day-in, day-out basis. Now that DeShawn has become dynamic, however, the assemblage of athletes from Ann Arbor is not only headed to the Big Dance; it appears primed to do some damage.
Today's wipeout of Iowa is notable not just because it solidified Michigan's hold on an NCAA bid. This authoritative performance is also significant because it represented such a profound turnaround from the last time these two teams locked horns.
On Feb. 22 in Iowa City, the Hawkeyes stole an overtime win from a Wolverine team that wilted, mentally and tactically, down the stretch. Sims was solid in that game, but not the unstoppable force he proved to be today in Indianapolis. Meanwhile, UM guard Manny Harris imploded down the stretch, so much so that Beilein had to bench his star backcourt player in the overtime period. Michigan faltered and fumbled in the heat of a late-February thriller against the Big Ten's tenth-place team, and when that loss became official, the awareness of their collapse forced the Wolverines to decide how they wanted their season to end.
Four games and three convincing wins later, DeShawn Sims is the Big Ten's hottest player, and Harris--who was very solid from start to finish (18 points on 7-of-11 shooting, 7 rebounds, 8 assists)--has responded to that overtime benching the way Beilein hoped he would. Add it all up, and Michigan--not even on the bubble--is now a dangerous opponent... for second-seeded Illinois in Friday's quarterfinals, and for any team in America who might draw the Wolverines in the first round of the NCAAs. It's amazing how far a team can travel in three weeks. This Michigan club has journeyed many miles in a very short span of time.
By Matt Zemek BigTen-fans.com Michigan Correspondent