116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
IOWA CITY — The Iowa Hawkeyes rebounded, regrouped and rediscovered their winning ways the last two weeks.
Now we’ll see if that carries over to the rest of the Big Ten Conference season.
Iowa got another great overall performance from Keegan Murray, had multiple other guys chip in and beat Western Illinois, 92-71, Wednesday night at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
After those three consecutive losses to Purdue, Illinois and Iowa State, the Hawkeyes (10-3) put a smackdown on their next three opponents. They scored 94 points against Utah State, 93 against Southeastern Louisiana and 92 here.
Maryland awaits Monday night, another home game that would seem to have a lot of significance considering Iowa’s 0-2 Big Ten hole. The Hawkeyes feel like they got some mojo back as they head into it.
“I think we just stayed together,” said Iowa Coach Fran McCaffery. “We lost to three really good teams, two of them on the road. No panic. We stayed together and got really good play out of a lot of different guys. That’s the kind of team we have.”
Murray was Murray, picking up yet another double-double of 29 points and 10 rebounds. Throw in three assists, three steals and a pair of blocked shots, and he was everywhere as usual.
“Obviously you want to recover the right way after losing against three really good teams,” he said. “Especially going (back) into Big Ten play. We just reshaped our focus (on) our upcoming schedule, especially during Christmas break as well. We locked in and took it day by day. You saw the results. We’re in the right head space going into Big Ten play.”
Iowa shot 54 percent from the field, boosted by a plethora of transition buckets. The Hawkeyes had 31 fast-break points to just two for Western Illinois.
The other key stat was Western’s 5-for-30 shooting from beyond the arc, atypical of the Leathernecks so far this season. Wapello’s Trenton Massner had 20 points for Western Illinois, which came into this game with a 10-3 record, those losses coming by six points or less.
“We knew they were going to shoot 30-plus 3s tonight based off the guys they have on their team,” said Iowa’s Jordan Bohannon. “That’s a really good team that we beat. All the teams that they play, if they lose a game, they’re not going to lose a game by 20 points.”
Bohannon and Payton Sandfort added 13 points apiece for Iowa, with Sandfort scoring 10 of those in a short span in the latter portion of the first half that helped the Hawkeyes build a double-digit lead. It was a 53-33 game at halftime.
“He’s a really confident player,” Murray said. “Obviously when he’s in the game, you want to get him the ball. As a shooter, when your first shot goes in, you gain confidence. You could see that ... He just gained more confidence as the game went on, hit some big shots and got us on a run.”
The one negative of the night was when guard Connor McCaffery went down with a left ankle injury in the second half. He had to be helped off the court and went straight into the locker room, eventually returning to the Iowa bench, though showing a heavy limp.
Center Josh Ogundele missed this game for Iowa with an ankle injury of his own.
“I just feel bad for (Connor) because he’s had the ankle issues earlier, then he had the back (problem), now he’s back to the ankle,” Coach McCaffery said. “He was really playing well in practice, was finally 100-percent healthy. So that kind of breaks your heart for him. But he’s tough. He’ll be back.”
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