A slow start between the Iowa Hawkeyes (17-7, 7-6 Big Ten) and the Nebraska Cornhuskers (7-18, 1-13 Big Ten), turn on its head in an instant as the Iowa Hawkeyes rolled to a 98-75 win, thanks in part to Keegan Murray (who else?) and a 22-4 scoring run that ended the game before halftime. It’s Iowa’s 3 straight win.
After about 6 minutes of play, and with the Huskers ahead by four, Murray decided to take charge himself from all areas of the court: on the defensive end, in transition, under the basket and from deep, on the way to 24 first half points and 37 overall on 15-21 shooting (and 4-5 from deep) — a new career high. He added 6 rebounds, 3. steals and 2 blocks to boot as well.
While Murray was brilliant, once again, Iowa’s role players stepped up in a big way. Payton Sandfort was a bright spot off the bench, hitting two shots from deep on the way to 12 points on 5-8 shooting, and grabbed 8 rebounds as well. He was joined by Kris Murray with 12 as well, and Jordan Bohannon had another strong day shooting the ball as well, scoring 10 points on 2-5 shots from deep. Patrick McCaffery rounded out Iowa’s largest contributors, tallying 9 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists and 2 steals.
The Hawkeyes and Huskers got out to a bit of a back-and-forth against the Huskers, even as Bohannon picked things up right where he left off against Maryland, sinking his first attempt from deep on the day. And yet, the Huskers stayed right there, as Iowa only took a 9-7 lead into the first media timeout after 5 minutes of play had elapsed.
The Huskers attacked the paint relentlessly from the get-go, and it worked, as the Huskers got out to a 15-11 lead thanks to a 6-0 run. But Murray would not allow it, and ended the run with a thunderous two-hand dunk and an 8-0 run of his own to bring back his team’s lead, forcing a Husker timeout, including this absolute beauty of a play in transition:
Iowa’s run was quickly 15-0 off a Payton Sandfort shoot from deep, and the lead was 26-15...and that was all she wrote for the out-matched Huskers. Iowa thankfully did not let off the gas, continuing to take advantage of the numerous Huskers turnovers. Another Murray 3, and suddenly, Iowa’s lead was 21 with five minutes still remaining in the half...as Murray got his scoring total to 21 on the day — tying Nebraska’s team total — and a quick possession later, and Sandfort hit from deep again — as part of a 14-2 scoring run, with Iowa getting out to a 46-21 lead.
Iowa went into halftime up 53-25, thanks in part to the 12 Nebraska turnovers and the two major scoring runs that had taken them over the top.
Iowa started out hot in the second half as well, as Nebraska realized the hole they had dug themselves in was too deep. The Huskers did manage to cut into the lead, going on a 20+ point run of their own, but it didn’t matter as the clock ticked closer and closer to zero and Iowa still up by 19, 81-62, with 7:09 left to play, and the run ending up not mattering as Iowa responded every time on the other end of the floor.
For Iowa, this was a very good tune-up win ahead of a crucial — and difficult — stretch of its conference schedule, hosting Michigan on Thursday, heading to Ohio State for a makeup game on Sunday, and then back to Carver the following Monday to host Michigan State (and retire Luka Garza’s jersey).
It seems likely this team is NCAA Tournament bound at this point, but this week will prove a lot about what will actually be feasible heading into the postseason. But for now, we’ll take a dominant win to get a tough week started off on the right foot.