116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
IOWA CITY — It looked unlikely for a while, but Iowa forward Payton Sandfort and his teammates sent Michigan off to never-never land Thursday night at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
Sandfort made a four-point play with 20 seconds left in the second half to tie the game, and added seven points in overtime that included a heads-up three-point play. Iowa, which trailed for most of the game, took the lead 20 seconds into overtime and pulled away for a 93-84 victory.
Sandfort had two points at halftime. He finished with a career-high 26.
“There’s no one that I’m more happy for than Payton,” said Iowa’s Kris Murray, who had 27 points of his own. “He deserved every bit of it.”
“He says that, but he’s our dog,” Sandfort said.
Well, the sophomore from Waukee had a lot of bark of his own. Not long ago, Sandfort was in a dreadful shooting slump and the Hawkeyes had a three-game losing streak. Now Iowa (11-6, 3-3 Big Ten) has won three straight.
Iowa led just once in the second half, and for only 18 seconds. Then freshman guard Jett Howard made the sixth of his seven 3-pointers for a 55-53 Wolverines lead with 14:24 left, and the Hawkeyes played from behind the rest of the half. Until …
Until Sandfort sank a 3-pointer with 20 seconds left and was fouled by Kobe Bufkin. Sandfort’s subsequent free throw was good, it was 79-79.
“I kind of felt (Bufkin) on my hip,” Sandfort said. “I knew we had to get one up quick, and then I got taken out.”
Dug McDaniel’s last-second runner was blocked by Iowa freshman guard Josh Dix, and off to overtime they went.
Sandfort hit a jumper to start Iowa’s 8-0 run at the start of the extra period. He bumped the lead to 85-79 when he caught the deflection of a 3-pointer Murray had blocked by Terrance Williams. Sandfort put the ball in the hoop, was knocked on his duff by Bufkin, pounded the court twice in happiness, then made the free throw.
“I forced that one up and then Payton was right place, right time,” Murray said. “That just shows the awareness that he has on the court.”
“He made two incredibly huge plays,” Iowa Coach Fran McCaffery said.
Murray is ice. Sandfort is fire. When he heats up, his teammates get fired up.
“He’s just such a great teammate, so positive,” McCaffery said. “So they’re all rooting for him. So when he’s cooking it definitely improves the energy level of everybody else.
“I play with joy,” Sandfort said.
This was a player who had been 0-for-19 from the field over his first three Big Ten games this season. He made 4 of 5 3-pointers and scored 22 points in the Hawkeyes’ 76-65 win at Rutgers Sunday, then took over this game with a lot of help from his friends.
Murray was Murray, with eight rebounds and three blocks to go with his 27 points. But big help also came from less-used sources.
Dix had career-highs of 10 points and five assists, and that last-second block. He hadn’t played more than 18 minutes in a game. He played 31, and the moment wasn’t too big for him. He played point guard down the stretch.
“I just kind of play my role, just with everything they need me to do,” Dix said.
“Didn’t even seem like he was a freshman,” said Murray.
“He really controlled the ball,” Sandfort said.
“Nothing rattles him,” said McCaffery.
It’s hard to believe Dix broke the tibia and fibula of his right leg in a Council Bluffs Lincoln game a year ago this month.
“When it happened,” Dix said, “I didn’t know what the future would hold or what would happen this year, if I would have to redshirt or if I’d be back in time or how much of a help I’d even be.
“I just stayed the course. I had a lot of people around me that helped me get back to this point.”
Dix had to go to the training room just before halftime because he was poked in the face by Howard on the Wolverine’s drive to the hoop.
“I got a bloody nose and he scratched my eye a little bit,” Dix said. He played all but two minutes of the rest of the game. Break your leg in a game, and a bloody nose is a day at the beach.
Then there was center Riley Mulvey, who had played one minute of Big Ten ball this season before Thursday. He played 13, and Iowa scored four more points than Michigan when he was on the floor.
Iowa starting center Filip Rebraca worked his way out of foul trouble and had 12 points and 13 rebounds. He drew seven fouls.
Michigan’s 7-foot-1 Hunter Dickinson got the better of Rebraca in the first half, but Dickinson was negated offensively after that and finished with 12 points.
Michigan shot 53 percent from the field in the first half, which ended with the Wolverines up 43-40. Howard, the son of Michigan head coach/former star Juwan Howard had five of his seven 3-pointers in that half, and 21 of his career-high 34 points. Just three of the 34, though, came in the game’s last 16:34.
The Wolverines’ largest lead was 65-55, with 10:56 to go. They had the ball and a 77-70 advantage with two minutes left, but Rebraca scored and Sandfort hit a 3. Bufkin got a basket to make it 79-75 with 29 seconds left, then Sandfort tied it.
The Hawkeyes had just six turnovers in the 45 minutes to Michigan’s 13. Their own defense was poor enough for an agitated McCaffery to call two timeouts in the first eight minutes of the second half, but it sure tightened up after that.
Iowa’s next game is here against Maryland (11-5, 2-3) Sunday at 3:30 p.m.
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