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Cirque du Sandfort: Iowa 93, Michigan 84 (OT)

Payton Sandfort led the Hawkeyes down the stretch in a comeback victory over the Wolverines

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

The Iowa Hawkeyes (11-6, 3-3) overcame a career night from Jett Howard in a come-from-behind overtime victory against the Michigan Wolverines (9-7, 3-2), 93-84. Kris Murray scored 27 points to lead the Hawks in a delightful back-and-forth between two potential draft picks while heroics from Payton Sandfort late and a bevy of points (26) got the game to overtime.

Sandfort’s heroics, let’s start there. Down 77-72 with 1:12 left, Iowa was in score-stop-score range after a Michigan turnover and promptly dialed up a set play for him to hit a three, which he did. Unfortunately, Kobe Bufkins hit a contested jumper to get the lead back to 4. Still gotta get a stop, right?

He sank the free throw.

Those two dots next to Michigan’s name in the video? Juwan Howard called one of them to set up a press break, which they did. But with fouls to give and the ball in Jett’s hands, Kris Murray reset Iowa’s defense with the foul. Michigan ran a set play after their last timeout to get the ball back into Howard’s hands before Iowa fouled again. Apparently that’s where Michigan’s set plays run out because a Dug McDaniels iso runner as time expired helplessly fell to the ground.


Sandfort continued to play great, five of Iowa’s first six points in the extra frame, which allowed them to race to an 85-79 lead. His putback/and-one with 3:00 remaining was Iowa’s final basket which has spelled doom in the past for the Hawkeyes but a smart foul by Sandfort sent Hunter Dickinson to the line instead of granting him a layup. He missed the first of the ensuing one-and-one. Iowa iced it the rest of the way at the line, going 8/10 and 17/22 (77.3%) on the game.

Overall, it was one of Fran’s best games of the season. In addition to drawing up plays for Sandfort and countering Howard down the stretch, he found the right lineup and it included Josh Dix - cashing in on that promise from last week - as he played the final 22:40 of the game and was excellent throughout his time on the court. He was often the point guard alongside Connor McCaffery and notched the first of many double-digit games with 10 points & five assists. Crucially, he had just one turnover and only got turned around once or twice on defense.

(Dix/Connor/Sandfort/Murray played 19 of the final 21 minutes together, the only respite coming for Connor with a couple Tony Perkins minutes to spell him)

Kris Murray did his part in matching Jett Howard’s atomic night. 27 points on a career-high 22 shots (I thought he settled a bit too much for threes after starting hot but incredibly minute criticism), and was great as a help defender. Three blocks, a steal, and eight defensive rebounds.

Howard made his first six shots - five threes - which were jumpstarted by a walk-up three you just can’t let him have. His first miss was a block by Murray on the first possession he guarded him in man-to-man (about 11 minutes too late). He had 21 points at half and 34 on the game, though his shot fell wayyy off as the game went on. He went just 4/11 in the second half and overtime as he looked gassed with about five minutes remaining in regulation. I guess chasing Connor for 45 minutes will do that. And Connor does deserve credit for making Howard’s life hell enough for him to become a non-factor down the stretch.

Worth a mention before wrapping this up: Riley Mulvey played big minutes off the bench as Filip Rebrača found himself in foul trouble. Four points and two rebounds and looking about as good as you could expect in 13 minutes. Good for him!

This team looks like it has the juice, as the kids say. Sandfort’s surgence came at the perfect time and makes the offense click in a way it just didn’t before. The defense played well enough when it needed to in front of a great Carver-Hawkeye crowd.

Next up: Sunday, 1/15, at 3:30p vs. Maryland Terrapins