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February Fright: #25 Iowa 88, Nebraska 78

Tony Perkins set a career high as the Hawkeyes came away with the road win

NCAA Basketball: Iowa at Nebraska Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports

It wasn’t easy, but the #25 Iowa Hawkeyes (20-8, 10-7) beat the cellar dwelling Nebraska Cornhuskers (7-21, 1-16) 88-78 behind a body swapping performance from the McCafferies and a career night for Tony Perkins.

Perkins led the game with 20 points on 8/10 shooting, including his only two threes of 2022. Connor finished with 11 points but was a necessary scorer throughout the first half. Murrays Keegan and Kris had 15 and 12, respectively, as each shot under their season averages. Both had excellent floor games, combining for 18 rebounds, including four offensive, and a pair of assists from each.

The Hawkeyes struggled with turnovers in the first half, nearly matching their season average (8.8) with seven in the frame. Many were of the unforced variety, with a travel and out-of-bounds in the corner.

Defensively, they were a half step slow for much of the frame, including a couple whiffs on steals. They left the rest of the Hawks scrambling on to cover everyone, which helped balloon the Huskers’ points in the paint to 20.

Normally, Iowa has been able to give the ball to Keegan Murray to sustain the offense when they get sideways. He struggled to find the basket, with just 1/6 shooting in the first half. The McCaffery brothers stepped up, though, combining for 17 points and Connor making all three of his shots from behind the arc (it’s six straight over three games).

After switching to a little junkball defense, the Hawkeyes were able to get the halftime lead on a Filip Rebraca layup as time wound down. They closed the half outscoring Nebraska 12-5 in the final five minutes.

Iowa struggled to extend the lead throughout much of the second half but were buoyed throughout by extra possessions on the offensive glass. They had seven offensive rebounds in the frame, which resulted in nine second chance points. Two particular possessions stick out - a Jordan Bohannon rebound followed by his own trey and a Perkins putback on an airball. Both were at key moments where a Nebraska basket could have given them the lead without those points.

The regularly scheduled “Murray Show” kicked in shortly after, with the twins scoring 15 of Iowa’s next 17 points.

The Hawkeye defense had its moments, but did struggle with fouls as four Alonzo Verge free throws cut the Iowa lead to nine.

Tony Perkins put the capper on an excellent night, with a jumper which extended Iowa’s lead to 81-70 with 1:40 left. Nebraska scored a couple baskets over the following minute but shot themselves in the foot with an ill-advised technical by Trey McGowens after Iowa inbounded the ball to Bohannon. The ref was on J-Bo like white on rice to keep the situation under control.

He hit his four ensuing free throws and that more or less did it.

No chopping veggies for me but an important win for the Hawkeyes against an opponent who gave Iowa their best shot.

Other thoughts:

  • There were years where it felt like nobody wanted the ball down the stretch of games. At this team’s best, Iowa has 5 guys who can score and who don’t seem afraid of the moment. Perkins was calm when he made that shot despite a bit of a fumble as the shot clock round down.
  • A game after receiving the Tom Izzo endorsement, Joe Toussaint and Ahron Ulis were less necessary with the Perkins explosion. They had just 13 minutes and 2 points between them.
  • Weird game from Rebraca. All three of his rebounds were on offense and Iowa got a little too focused on running offense through him in the second half, as he missed both his shots in the frame & had a turnover. Finished with six points.
  • There was a point in the game where they flashed a graphic of combined scoring among the brothers in the game. McCafferys: 21, Murrays: 14, McGowenses: 21. The Murrays ended up winning that with their 27.
  • Good crowd for a single-Big Ten win team.
  • Bohannon free throws at the end salvaged an otherwise frustrating night at the line. The Hawks finished 17/24 (70.8%), with Keegan going 3/7.