HawkeyeReport - Iowa shoots past WIU
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Iowa shoots past WIU

Payton Sandfort had a strong shooting night in the win. (Photo: Hawkeyesports.com)
Payton Sandfort had a strong shooting night in the win. (Photo: Hawkeyesports.com)

Despite snow falling outside, a reported crowd of 15,000 piled into Carver to watch the Hawkeyes pick up a 92-71 victory over an incredibly improved Western Illinois Leathernecks squad. Iowa will move back into Big Ten play with an overall record of 10-3.

“This is a really good team. I’ve been really impressed with this team across the board. They’ve got multiple guys that can score, they pound the glass, they make 3’s. It’s a really good win for us,” said Fran McCaffery on the win to finish up non-conference play.

The Leathernecks came into the game shooting the 16th most 3pt shots in the country and were top 60 in three point percentage. The Hawkeyes played the perimeter well and forced WIU into 5 of 30 shooting from behind the arc.

Jordan Bohannon mentioned that was a point of emphasis in practice leading up to the game. “For sure. We knew if we were going to run them off the line a little bit and force tough shots, at the end of the day they were going to get more layups than normal and give them credit they took what was given to them…At the end of the day, we were able to push them to 5/30 from the 3pt line when they are a phenomenal 3pt shooting team.”

Keegan Murray helped lead the Hawkeyes to a 53-33 halftime lead with 18 first half points on 8/13 shooting, but Payton Sandfort was the breakout performer in the opening frame, scoring ten points, including a couple of 3pt makes and three offensive rebounds.

“He was terrific in the first half in a lot of different ways. He had three offensive rebounds and you think about the two 3’s, which were huge, but he’s attacking the glass and making a difference in the game,” said Fran McCaffery on the performance of his freshman forward.

Sandfort would finish the game with 13 points and four rebounds, while going 3/3 from behind the arc. It was a bounce back performance after he missed his last five 3pt attempts vs Southeastern Louisiana.

In the second half, Iowa never let the lead get below 13 points and were able to roll to victory with relative ease. Keegan Murray continued to make a difference in the second half and finished the game with a double-double, logging 29 points, 10 rebounds, as well as three blocks and three steals.

Murray talked about his aggressiveness on the defensive side of the ball saying, “Just being aggressive on both ends of the court. Obviously, I want to change the game in different ways and be versatile on both sides of the basketball. I was able to take advantage on the defensive end and then making those run outs and transition layups helped us increase the lead.”

Jordan Bohannon (13) and Patrick McCaffery (11) both scored in double figures, while Ahron Ulis dished out a team leading five assists.

Trenton Massner led the Leathernecks with 20 points, but the defense held leading scorer Will Carius to nearly six points below his average and 2/9 from behind the arc.

The Hawkeyes now turn their focus fully to Big Ten play where they face an 0-2 hole and start play again with a tough Maryland squad.

“It starts with practice,” said Bohannon on getting into the win column in the Big Ten. “Me being here for a while now and understanding the little details are important to making a big time run. Trying to use my experiences to help the younger guys out. Myself, Connor, Joe T, Patrick, guys that have been through the ropes of Big Ten play is really important for us to continue to try to do what we want to do with our end goal.”

Iowa’s matchup with the Terrapins will be at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on January 3rd and the game will be televised on the Big Ten Network. Tip-off is set for 8:07pm.