By Pat Harty
The naysayers and gloom-and-doomers who had plenty to say after the Iowa men’s basketball team lost at home to Michigan on Thursday are now silent again.
Or, at least they should be silent after what Iowa pulled off Saturday in Columbus, Ohio on just one day of rest.
Iowa overcame a sluggish start to earn its first quad-1 win of the season against an Ohio State team that hadn’t lost at home this season, and that led by double figures early in the first half.
The Hawkeyes seized the momentum with an 8-0 scoring run about midway through the second half and would go on to prevail 75-62 at Value City Arena.
Iowa had 20 offensive rebounds and played rock-solid defense down the stretch in the second half to improve to 18-8 overall and 8-7 in the Big Ten.
Keegan Murray and his twin brother Kris Murray scored 24 and 11 points, respectively, but it was the less-heralded Kris Murray who came up big in the second half when Iowa needed a spark, as he scored all 11 of his points in the final 20 minutes.
“I thought we stressed a lot in this game moving better without the ball,” Kris Murray said on the Learfield post-game radio show. “We were a little bit stagnant against Michigan and I think we did really well with that. We had a lot of driving lanes that we took (advantage) of.”
Ohio State was held to just 24 points in the second half after having scored 38 points in the first half.
“Once we started getting stops in a row, we had a lot of confidence in our defensive ability,” Kris Murray said. “I think that’s when we’re at our best, and you saw that a lot today, especially like the last 12 minutes of the first half, and the whole second half, we were really good.”
Iowa had three consecutive defensive stops on three different occasions during the final 12 minutes of the second half.
“What I said to the team, we were really connected defensively,” said Iowa coach Fran McCaffery. “We really fought them defensively.”
Iowa played with a sense of urgency on defense in the second half, and made enough baskets on offense to earn a huge resume-building win.
The Hawkeyes will try for their fifth win in six games when they face Michigan State on Tuesday at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
Fran McCaffery had so much to like about his team’s performance, the toughness, the grit and the ability to stay focused in a tough road environment, and against one of the top teams in the conference.
“We kept them from getting into the lane, they want to get down hill,” Fran McCaffery said of Ohio State. “We guarded the post. And we pounded the glass, which enabled us to get some run-outs and some easy baskets in transition.
“And then, I thought offensively, we really moved and shared the ball. We moved it side-to-side. This is a team that locks in defensively if you try and score on one pass.”
Fran McCaffery had high praise for Kris Murray’s performance off the bench, and deservedly so.
“He was incredibly active,” Fran McCaffery said. “He was alert defensively. He played big. He played quick. Offensively, he was a threat. He made big shots. He got put-backs. He drove the ball. He made good decisions when he drove it.”
With the shot clock about to expire, Iowa guard Bohannon was fouled by Jamari Wheeler while attempting a shot from 3-point range about midway through the second half. Bohannon then made two of three free throws to give Iowa a 52-49 lead.
It was Wheeler’s fourth foul, and that sequence would prove to be the turning point in the game.
Kris Murray made a 3-point basket on Iowa’s next possession, expanding the lead to 55-49 with slightly more than 12 minutes remaining.
Ohio State called a timeout to regroup, but Iowa responded with a basket by Filip Rebraca, pushing the lead to 56-49.
Kris Murray then scored in transition to give Iowa a 58-49 lead with nine minutes remaining.
A quad-1 win was there for the taking.
It was just a matter of whether Iowa could hang on in a hostile environment.
The answer would prove to be a resounding yes.
Keegan Murray and Kris Murray made back-to-back dunks in transition that give Iowa a 64-53 lead with 6:49 left to play. Their dunks were part of an 8-0 scoring run by Iowa.
Ohio State sliced the deficit to six points at 68-62, but Connor McCaffery answered with a 3-point basket that pushed the lead to 71-62 with 1:41 left to play.
Ohio State never threatened again.
Keegan Murray was spectacular in the first half, scoring 20 points, and his team needed him to be after Ohio State had bolted to a 21-10 lead.
Keegan Murray responded with his own 10-0 scoring run in which he scored eight points in one minute, 13 seconds.
He made a three.
He tipped in his own miss.
And he converted an old-fashioned 3-point play after having been fouled on a layup in transition.
A road game that showed early signs of getting out of hand suddenly turned competitive and stayed that way until Iowa pulled away down the stretch
Backup point guards Joe Toussaint and Ahron Ulis both provided a boost off the bench in the first half, which ended with Iowa clinging to a 39-38 lead. They also played well in the second half on both ends of the floor.
Keegan Murray found little room to operate in the second half while being surrounded by defenders.
But that created an opportunity for his twin brother, who rose to the occasion.
“I knew I had to pick it up a lot, especially after that first half offensively. It wasn’t my best,” Kris Murray said. “That second half was big for me. It helped my confidence a lot.”