INDIANAPOLIS -- After a scare early in the second half and in the closing minutes, Michigan held off Cully Payne and Iowa, 59-52, to advance to the Big Ten tournament quarterfinals. The Wolverines will face top seed Ohio State on Friday (ESPN, noon ET).
Michigan got what it needed from its star players, particularly junior guard Manny Harris, who played a lot like he did early in the season. Harris was very aggressive on both ends of the court and finished with 22 points, nine rebounds and two assists. Wolverines senior forward DeShawn Sims continued to be a load in the low post, racking up 14 points.
Iowa never quit today, which is more than I can say for the Hawkeyes' last two outings -- historically bad losses to rivals Wisconsin (67-40) and Minnesota (88-53). The Hawkeyes carried over the momentum they built late in the first half, thanks to Payne, who scored a career-high 25 points. Iowa cut Michigan's lead to four points before a Sims block led to a Zack Novak 3-pointer. The Hawkeyes also took advantage of Michigan's sloppiness down the stretch, cutting the lead to five with a chance to get closer.
Payne surpassed his previous career best of 18 early in the second half. But other than promising forward Aaron Fuller (10 points, 13 rebounds), Payne didn't get much help from his Iowa teammates.
The Hawkeyes struggled to hang onto the ball, committing 14 turnovers in the loss.
There's a lot of buzz here at Conseco about the future of Iowa third-year head coach Todd Lickliter, which could be addressed in a matter of moments. Lickliter has four years remaining on his contract but owns a 38-58 record at Iowa.
Stay tuned ...