Michigan finds itself in the top 10 and atop the Big Ten standings thanks in large part to a pair of major road wins in the conference.
The 10th-ranked Wolverines will go for another Saturday when they try for a sweep of the regular-season series against No. 17 Iowa in Iowa City.
"There’s a lot of reason for them to have some edge," said Michigan coach John Beilein, whose team has won at Michigan State and Wisconsin this season. "There’s a championship trophy waiting for whoever can be the best in this league. If you’re going to do this, you have to go and beat some really good teams."
After losing its unbeaten conference record in Sunday’s loss at Indiana, Michigan (17-5, 9-1 Big Ten) bounced back Wednesday with a 79-50 home win over Nebraska. Sophomore forward Glenn Robinson III matched a career high with 23 points after being held to single digits in his previous three games.
"When he is involved, when he’s scoring, we are a really tough team to guard," Beilein said.
The Wolverines also got 16 points apiece from Caris LeVert and Zak Irvin, while leading scorer Nik Stauskas took just three shots and scored nine points. Stauskas is averaging 17.3 points, but he’s totaled 15 over the last two contests on just nine shots.
Iowa coach Fran McCaffery sees it as more of a problem for opponents than a scoring slump for Stauskas.
"When you take a team’s leading scorer and he has put winning above everything else, that says a lot about him and (Beilein) and the culture they have," McCaffery told the school’s official website. "They have a very unselfish team and any game, you can pick seven or eight guys that can be their leading scorer."
Stauskas’ team-first mentality was evident against Nebraska. He dished out a career-high eight assists while the team shot 50.0 percent from the field, including 13 of 31 from 3-point range.
"I’m never going to be a player that forces shots," Stauskas said. "If my teammates are open, I’m going to find them."
Last time out against Iowa (17-6, 6-4), he didn’t have to force anything. The 6-foot-6 sophomore matched a career-high 26 points on 8-of-14 shooting as the Wolverines won 75-67 on Jan. 22 in Ann Arbor. Dating to that game, the Hawkeyes have dropped three of five.
Following a 76-69 defeat against Ohio State on Tuesday, Iowa has dropped two straight at home after winning 20 in a row at Carver-Hawkeye Arena, including its first 11 this season. Still, the team hasn’t lost back-to-back games overall in more than a year.
"This will be a big test," McCaffery said. "We’re playing the first-place team in the league, but we haven’t lost two games in a row all year. We’ve responded every time we’ve been beaten."
Responding this time will likely take a better 3-point shooting day. Against Ohio State, the Hawkeyes went a season-worst 3 of 20 from long range. They weren’t much better against Michigan with a 2-for-10 mark and are 3-4 when shooting 25.0 percent or less from beyond the arc.
Mike Gesell scored a team-high 16 points against the Buckeyes, while reserve Gabriel Olaseni added 14 on 5-of-5 shooting. Olaseni, averaging 6.9 points, has scored at least 12 in four of his last six contests and is averaging 14.5 over his previous two.
Since the start of last season, Michigan is 10-8 against ranked opponents with three straight wins, while Iowa is 1-11 with back-to-back losses.