By Pat Harty
By the time Tuesday’s men’s basketball game between Iowa and No. 8 Creighton ended well after 11 p.m. CST, some Hawkeye fans probably were sleeping since it was a work day.
Too bad for them because they missed a highly entertaining game in which Iowa trimmed a 17-point second-half deficit to five points before falling 92-84 at CHI Center in Omaha, Nebraska.
Creighton flirted with blowing the game wide open in the second half, but the Hawkeyes refused to wilt under the pressure of a raucous crowd, and despite playing four freshmen for long stretches.
Senior guard Tony Perkins was a key for Iowa down the stretch on both ends of the floor, while graduate transfer forward Ben Krikke was a force on offense in the first half as he scored 16 points before halftime
Iowa (2-1) suffered its first loss of the season, but if there is such a thing as a moral victory, this was it considering the opponent, and where the game was played.
Iowa has six newcomers on the roster, so it’s reasonable to assume that there will be some growing pains this season.
That was certainly the case in Tuesday’s game, and yet, the Hawkeyes were in it until the end.
Junior Payton Sandfort, who entered the game as Iowa’s leading scorer and rebounder, suffered a hard fall with 13 minutes, 58 seconds remaining in the second half that caused him to miss some playing time, and he also sat on the bench for half of the first half with two fouls.
But his teammates overcame his absence and gave themselves a chance to win a game in which few expected them to win.
Krikke led four Iowa players in scoring with 24 points, while Perkins finished with 16 points and six assists.
Payton Sandfort scored 11 points and grabbed six rebounds despite only playing 18 minutes, while senior forward Patrick McCaffery finished with 13 points.
The first half ended tied at 43 and had 13 lead changes.
Krikke, a graduate transfer from Valparaiso, led Iowa with 16 points in the first half on 7-of-9 shooting from the field.
Perkins and Payton Sandfort both scored eight points in the first half, while freshman forward Ladji Dembele scored five points and made one of Iowa’s three treys in the first half.
Sandfort picked up two early fouls and spent nearly half of the first half on the bench, but his teammates stepped up in his absence.
Iowa isn’t known for its defense under Fran McCaffery, but it forced seven Creighton turnovers in the first half, and the Blue Jay only shot 42.9 percent from the field. Iowa also had four blocks and four steals in the first half.
Creighton then showed why it’s ranked eighth nationally as it outscored Iowa 10-2 and bolted to an eight-point lead at 53-45 in less than three minutes to start the second half.
Fran McCaffery called a timeout with 17:08 remaining to regroup and it worked as his team battled back.