basketball Edit

Iowa 85, Rutgers 71: A B1G Win

Peyton Sandfort shoots a jumper over Rutgers defender Aundre Hyatt on Saturday, January 6.
Peyton Sandfort shoots a jumper over Rutgers defender Aundre Hyatt on Saturday, January 6. (© Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports)

IOWA CITY -- Iowa nabbed its first Big Ten win of the season, 85-71 over Rutgers. With the win, the Hawkeyes move to 9-6 overall and 1-3 in the conference.

Here are three takeaways from the win.

Effort and Energy


From the jump, the Hawkeyes played with more energy and made more effort plays than we've seen to this point in the season.

"We lost the other night -- we turned the ball over and got beat on the glass," Fran McCaffery said postgame. "Those are the things we addressed all week. I think the guys were locked in to be better. We did some good things at Wisconsin. We got a lead, we hung in there for a while and some guys played well. To win in this league, you need more and we did more today."

The guys on the floor felt it, too.

"We talked about having a chip on our shoulders," junior Payton Sandfort said. "I think everybody did. Everybody was all over the floor and we were on the boards. ... For the most part, we were battling -- our guards were rebounding, Ladji (Dembele) was in there on the floor, everybody was fighting and that's a good thing."

"I thought we did a great job coming out today," Valparaiso transfer Ben Krikke added. "[We played] with fire and we played connected."

Rutgers' slow start didn't hurt, either. The Scarlet Knights started the game 1-15 from the floor, just 6.7 percent. By the under-12 media timeout in the first half, Iowa's early lead had grown to 19-5.

"I thought we got spectacular looks," Rutgers head coach Steve Pikiell said. "We didn't make them. You're not going to make all of those -- I understand that. But we've got to finish some layups, too. It's on me. We've been getting off to tough starts at the beginning of games."

Rutgers wasn't just missing scoring opportunities, either. Iowa's defensive effort held Clifford Omoruyi, Rutgers second-leading scorer with 10.7 points per game, to six points on a mere 1-4 shooting from the field.

"I thought we were really good [at the defensive end]," McCaffery said. "Clearly, we were concerned with Cliff. He's a handful, not only on the screen-and-roll, but in an offensive rebounding situation. He's a threat to get and dunk it pretty much every time the shot goes. I thought we did a great job with him."

Freshman big Owen Freeman -- who finished with 15 points, and four rebounds -- was a big part of Iowa's consistent energy through the game.

"When he's going and he's excited, it's easy to get the team going, too," Krikke said. "He did a great job just finishing strong and not playing like a freshman. I've been saying that all year. He's past his years. It's good to see him be aggressive."

"I just keep telling him to trust his talent," McCaffery added. "He's really good. I never want him to be tentative about anything -- screen, roll, dunk, dribble the ball up the floor. ... He can get all the way to the rim and dunk it in transition. I think the more and more opportunities he has to make those kind of plays, the more confidence he'll get."

Season High by Sandfort

Prior to the matchup with the Scarlet Knights, Sandfort had scored more than 20 points just twice this season. On Saturday, he broke out with a season-high 24 -- 11 of which came in the first six minutes of the second half.

"The basket felt like an ocean, so that's a good feeling," Sandfort said. "We've had some trouble with the beginning of halves. So, I took it upon myself to try to make some plays and propel us to the W."

"Once you start feeling it, you just make reads. You're not really thinking, you're just kind of playing and trying to get your shot off as fast as you can."

For Iowa's second-leading scorer, it's about finding ways to replicate that success.

"It's just keeping confidence," Sandfort said. "It's hard moving into a new role, being on top of a scouting report. You have to find new ways to score. If I can get myself in a rhythm, go out there and play my game, quit thinking about it -- that's where I can go out and excel."

It's not as if Sandfort's scoring came as a surprise to the Rutgers coaching staff, as he was a focal point of their Iowa scouting report.

"He's a very dangerous player," Pikiell said. "I actually thought some of his shots were highly guarded. Good players like that --when they're feeling good and they're on their home court -- they'll make those kinds of shots. We were well aware of his ability to do that, and when they win games, he usually has nights like that."

Record Big Ten Wins for Fran McCaffery

With the victory, McCaffery is now Iowa's all-time leader in Big Ten wins as a men's basketball coach. With 127 wins, he passed the previous record of 126 by Tom Davis.

"You guys know me, I don't think too much about wins," he said postgame. "I always kind of find it interesting. People talk about 'I have so much wins.' I didn't play anybody. Iowa won those games."

"When something like this happens, you think about the journey a little bit. ... I have incredible support from my family, from my wife. Without her, I wouldn't have any wins. I've been able to enjoy some of those victories with my boys. Not the least of which was the Big Ten Championship. Then you think about your staff, and things like that. I prefer not to make a big deal of my win-loss record is, because I came here to coach the University of Iowa."

Pikiell made sure to emphasize just how much an accomplishment it is, and how grateful Iowa fans should be to have a coach like McCaffery.

"How about that? That's unbelievable. There were some great coaches here, too," he said. "He's one of the best coaches in America. Sometimes when you have a guy that has been around for a while, you don't appreciate truly that every year he has a really good team. That record is hard to achieve. Make sure you appreciate him, because those guys are hard to come by."

Don't miss out on any of our exclusive football, basketball, and recruiting coverage. Sign up with Go Iowa Awesome here.