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PISCATAWAY, N.J. — Yes, a basketball game with football-like tendencies was decided on a foul call with less contact than a takeout order from a sandwich shop during a pandemic.
The foul call on Iowa’s Keegan Murray with two seconds left in Wednesday’s men’s basketball game at Rutgers’ Jersey Mike’s Arena was more like a brushoff. Especially in a game in which bumping and grinding were in vogue, and not the sexy kind.
But Murray was whistled for a foul on Rutgers’ Ron Harper Jr., as Harper was actually dribbling farther from the basket, and he never was all that near it in the final seconds. Harper got two free throws, made both, broke a 46-46 tie, and the Scarlet Knights improved to 5-2 in the Big Ten with their 48-46 triumph.
Coincidentally, Big Ten coordinator of men’s basketball officials Rick Boyages was in attendance. Referee Courtney Green worked the Wisconsin-Northwestern game in Evanston, Ill., the night before.
Iowa’s two-game winning streak was halted as it slipped to 3-4 in the conference, 13-5 overall.
“We should be playing overtime,” Hawkeyes Coach Fran McCaffery said after the game.
“It was a really physical, hard-fought game. It should not have come down to that. It just shouldn’t.”
“I felt like I was just sliding my feet,” said Murray. “I thought I was in good defensive position.
“Obviously, I can’t really say too much about it. Obviously, he (Green) blew his whistle. I thought I was in a good position, but I can’t really do too much about the refs.”
The Hawkeyes couldn’t do much about Rutgers’ defense, either. Penetration was minimal. Going deep in the shot clock and being forced to take low-percentage jump shots was commonplace. Iowa had four 30-second infractions in the game.
The Hawkeyes shot 27.9 percent (17-of-61) in scoring 33 points under their season average. They were out-rebounded by 11 in the second half. Ten of their shots were blocked.
Murray was held to a team-high 13 points, 10 less than his norm.
“For a scorer,” he said, “it’s hard to find a rhythm when a game’s got a lot of fouls called and it’s a choppy game.”
Iowa had to go the length of the court to tie or win the game in the last two seasons. Connor McCaffery’s long inbounds pass was caught by a leaping Murray, but his 3-point try wasn’t close. Iowa made just 6 of 27 threes.
The Hawkeyes went 6:25 without a point midway through the first half, and had a drought of 5:48 in the second half. Still, they were in it to the end because their own defense held Rutgers to 31 percent shooting.
Patrick McCaffery scored on a drive with 27 seconds remaining to tie the game. Harper got the ball with about five seconds left, defended by Iowa’s Toussaint, who then switched with Murray.
Iowa didn’t get a point or assist from any of its substitutes in 38 combined minutes of playing time. Starting guard Jordan Bohannon, who averaged 17.8 points and made 16 of 28 3-pointers over four previous games and three wins here, was 2-of-10 from deep and scored six points.
“Great defense from start to finish,” Rutgers Coach Steve Pikiell said. “As good of a defensive effort as you’ll see. … pretty good against a team that can flat-out score.”
Pikiell’s team had lost its last two games to Iowa here by two points apiece.
Rutgers has online classes only through Jan. 31, but its student section was packed Wednesday and helped create a loud atmosphere in the 8,000-seat, newly-renamed gym.
Jersey Mike’s calls its sandwiches “subs.” But this game was what New Englanders call their subs, a grinder.
“They’re a real good defensive team,” said Toussaint, who played in front of family and friends from his nearby home in the Bronx. “They mug you, they beat you to the spot. They’re just a smart, crafty team.”
Iowa will try to return to .500 in the league when it plays its only Saturday home game of the season, a sold-out 3:30 clash with Penn State.
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