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Clamping down: Hawkeyes 71, Minnesota 59

Keegan Murray did Keegan Murray things but strong defense in the second half propelled the Hawkeyes to victory

NCAA Basketball: Minnesota at Iowa Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

The Iowa Hawkeyes (15-7, 5-6) got a much needed win against the Minnesota Golden Gophers (11-9, 2-9), 71-59, behind another two-way elite performance from Keegan Murray and excellent second half defense. Murray finished with 24 points, 15 rebounds, 3 assists, and 2 blocks while holding Minnesota’s leading scorer, Jamison Battle, to just 2 points on 1/12 shooting.

The game began with a starting lineup change nobody asked for, with Tony Perkins filling in for Joe Toussaint. The shift back to point paid immediate dividends for Jordan Bohannon, as he made his first two 3s.

The three was Iowa’s best offense in the first half, as they went 5/12 from range and 8/22 elsewhere. Keegan Murray looked more assertive in the frame, with 14 points and 9 rebounds, including many on defense where he led the break off a Gopher miss.

It wasn’t sunshines and rainbows to open the game, though. Despite the change, Iowa yielded another early lead. The defense was spotty, including Luke Loewe’s 11 points. If there’s a play to sum up the half, look no further than the Hawkeyes attempt at conjuring points just before it ended:

Miss you, Connor. An unfortunate stat is that Perkins had all 3 of the Hawks’ first half turnovers.

Things were immediately rectified as they added two quick baskets to tie it up at 38 but allowed a trifecta of Gopher 3s and they led 47-42. At this point, the game figured to be a slog to the end, win or loss.

Yet the defense got amped up and Iowa went on a 9-0 run, with 7 of those points coming off Minnesota turnovers. A bench-heavy unit continued the trend, with Ahron Ulis playing some of his best ball in a Hawkeye uniform today. The lead was extended to 10 - the most of either team to that point - behind a pair of field goals from Ulis plus a basket a piece from Payton Sandfort and Kris Murray.

Iowa’s offense continued to excel, with a coast-to-coast from Ulis off a steal, a dunk from Keegan, and Patrick getting his down the stretch.

A total script flipping, largely spurred from defense.

Other stuff

  • Patrick has been playing his best basketball of late, and finished with 18 points on 8/14 and 7 rebounds. Love to see it from the younger McCaffery.
  • Sandfort filled in well for Connor, with 5 points, 3 boards, and a block in 10 minutes. Connor brings a lot of value to this team when he’s healthy, but Sandfort does a lot of the same things and offers much higher offensive potential. Happy to see him play well.
  • Joe Toussaint brought energy in his 6 minutes (0 in the second half) but the amount of time is the story. Ulis’s emergence of late - 9 points, 5 rebounds, 2 assists, and 2 steals - and Bohannon’s shift back to (some) PG means those minutes are even trickier to come by.
  • I thought Billy Taylor did well filling in for Fran. There was one really weird lineup he had in for seconds before getting something more normal in there. I even liked the timeout called just before half to set up that play. Have to think it goes differently with Connor in there.

Next up: Thursday, 2/10, at Maryland