By Dallas Jones
IOWA CITY, IOWA – After a disappointing 0-2 start in conference play for the Hawkeyes, they looked to bounce back against the 15th ranked Indiana Hoosiers.
Iowa had the Hoosiers number last year, beating them in Carver January 13th 83-74, led by 29 points from Kris Murray. Then again in the Big Ten Tournament 80-77, led by 31 points from Keegan Murray.
Another Murray masterclass took place tonight as Kris Murray led the Hawkeye from a 21 point deficit to capture the two point victory 91-89.
Here are my takeaways and postgame comments from the team:
Fran sparks comeback again: Thursday night’s game did not start off great for the Hawkeyes on any level. Lots of easy basketball allowed and sloppy turnovers led to an almost 20 point deficit well into the first half.
Head Coach Fran McCaffery seemed very frustrated early with officiating and with 12:09 until the half and Indiana leading 30-13, Courtney Green called Fran McCaffery for a technical foul with.
Similarly to the Wisconsin game, it seemed to kick the Hawkeyes into gear. Sparking a 13-5 run and getting Iowa back into the game.
Now that may not be a strategy Iowa wants to implement every game, but McCaffery’s fiery personality rubs off on the team.
That momentum carried over into the second half when Iowa completed the comeback and regained the lead 63-61 with 11:35 left to play, their first lead of the game.
Kris Murray is a pro, be a pro: Kris Murray came into tonight following a monster game against Penn State in which he had 32 points on 12-20 season. With the absence of Patrick McCaffery due to personal reasons, Murray was looked at to carry the load even more than usual.
In the first half, Murray looked a little timid. He total nine points on 4-8, but was not the force we are used to seeing and had been outplayed by the Indiana star Trayce Jackson-Davis. He came out in the second half and doubled that in just six minutes of play.
Kris showed why he is a first rounder in this coming NBA draft on all levels of the game. He finished with 30 points on 11-18 from the field, 3-6 from three, and 5-7 from the free throw line. Capping off a 21-point second half.
There is no bigger stage that going head to head with a ranked opponent led by another pro-level talent at your position. Kris answered the call tonight.
Indiana holds big man matchup advantage till injury: Trayce Jackson-Davis is widely regarded as one of the best forwards and players in the country. His matchup with Kris Murray brought eyes to this game.
Add in Filip Rebraca from Iowa and Race Thompson with the Hoosier, you have an old fashioned big man battle.
The Hoosiers dominated that matchup in the first half with Jackson-Davis and Thompson combining for 23 points (10-15 fg) and eight rebounds. Thompson went down with a knee injury in the first half that finished his night.
Filip Rebraca and Kris Murray both showed up and played key parts in the second half. Finishing the game with a combined 48 points and 20 rebounds.
The Hawkeyes moved to a 2-3 zone in the second half and that helped the Hawkeyes slow the Indiana bigs dominance.
Rebraca had 11 points and eight huge rebounds in the second half to help anchor their front court in the comeback. He consistency will be huge for Iowa to turn around their early struggles in conference play.
There is no easy games when it comes to bigs in the Big Ten and if Iowa can get performances like this from their front court tandem, there is much more to come out of Iowa City.
Role players do not quit: It would be a disservice to call Connor McCaffery a role player due to his elevation of play this year, so I won’t spend too much time explaining how huge his 16 points were tonight. The sixth year senior is playing his best basketball ever.
The trio that does need to be highlighted is Payton Sandfort, Dasonte Bowen and Josh Dix. The young perimeter players may have not filled the box score up, but when Iowa faced it’s daunting deficit early in the game. it was the drive of the young players that helped them stay in the game.
Sandfort came in and provided a quick seven points as soon as he entered the game and down the stretch we saw Dix make a huge three and provide help double teaming Jackson-Davis in the post.
Bowen also showed tenacity on the defensive end and found Kris Murray on a late bucket to help Iowa close out the game.
A lot of teams talk about a “next man up mentality,” but that is much easier said than done. After a few tough losses in a row, the Hawkeyes are far from done.
Check out what Coach McCaffery and players had to say after the game here: