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Double trouble: Iowa 86, Northwestern 70

Payton Sandfort and Filip Rebrača each tallied 20 points as the Hawks turned Northwestern on their head in the second half

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

The Iowa Hawkeyes (14-8, 6-5) overcame early turnovers to turn a tightly contested game into a laugher against the Northwestern Wildcats (15-6, 6-4) in an 86-70 win. Filip Rebrača and Payton Sandfort led the way with dueling 20-point performances. Rebrača added 10 rebounds - four on offense - and four assists in his 9th double-double (third in the Big Ten according to a BTN graphic). Kris Murray (16 points), Tony Perkins (12), and Connor McCaffery (11) joined them in double figures.

The Hawkeyes were great on offense, especially in the second half, as they went 56% from the field and 48% from three, where Sandfort made 5/7. They added 18/22 from the line.

Defensively, the Hawks forced Northwestern into a number of tough shots, and Chase Audige and Boo Buie hit plenty of them, totalling 35 points on 13/32 shooting. They had some highlights, but not enough of ‘em.

Iowa rode strong play from Filip Rebrača early, as he scored eight of their first 14 points. They couldn’t get into much of a rhythm, though, before Connor McCaffery & Kris Murray came out. Josh Dix made an immediate impact, contesting a Boo Buie basket and getting a transition jumper on the other end. Payton Sandfort took a rebound and hit a pullup three to go up 25-22. After a shot clock violation, the crowd got rowdy before heading into the tv timeout.

Unfortunately, the Hawkeyes couldn’t stretch the lead, struggling with Northwestern’s defense for much of the first half - five of Iowa’s first six turnovers were steals. The Wildcats used their strong defense to counter the Carver-Hawkeye Arena crowd and go on a 13-1 run with some stellar play from Chase Audige.

He immediately followed up an alley-oop dunk with a charge call on Kris Murray which drew a charge which got Fran McCaffery teed up. Minutes later, his stepback three stretched their lead to 35-26, the largest of the first half.

The lid came off the basket for Murray, though, and he scored Iowa’s next eight points - two threes and a transition dunk - before getting his second foul with 1:19 remaining. The ensuing free throws got Northwestern’s lead to five but Connor McCaffery nailed a pair of free throws before a Payton Sandfort three tied it up at 39 to head into the break.

The defensive pressure remained for Northwestern early as Iowa had two turnovers in the first 90 seconds of the stanza and the ‘cats got the lead to 44-39. It looked like Iowa might have some trouble getting back into it after Ahron Ulis missed a jumper but Rebrača snagged the offensive rebound and found Tony Perkins for his only three-pointer of the game.

A Connor three brought it to 1 and then Perkins added another four points to give the Hawks the 51-48 lead and they never looked back. Northwestern hit a series of tough jumpers to find themselves up 1 before Payton Sandfort & Rebrača turned on the afterburners.

Sandfort’s jumper gave Iowa a 57-56 lead to jumpstart a mini-run to get Iowa’s lead to 62-56. Boo Buie hit an and-one and the Hawks punched back with a Sandfort three assisted by Rebrača. Filip nailed a couple free throws before a dunk (from Sandfort), alley-oop (on a goaltend that was not called immediately), and tag-teaming defense from he and Murray led to his 20th points of the game.

Sandfort followed that 8-point run up with a 6-point run of his own on ... a single possession. He hit a three-plus-one and hit a couple more free throws off of Chris Collins’ technical which took the lead to 79-65. His three with 2:34 remaining put the bow on a stellar half of basketball from Iowa at 84-68. It finished 86-70.

On the 30th anniversary of Iowa’s first game after Chris Street’s death, the Hawkeyes tapped into something special by way of impressive defense in the second half - just 14 points in the final 10 minutes for Northwestern - and fantastic offense from a number of guys.

But really, the story was the turnovers. Iowa had just two throughout 18 minutes when they put the bow on it.

They’ll face an enigmatic Illinois squad on Saturday, with huge implications for the top four of the conference and double-bye for the Big Ten tournament. See you there.