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IOWA CITY — While Iowa was posting three straight men’s basketball wins, Tony Perkins hadn’t fully been part of the ride.
Starting junior guard Perkins was 6-of-28 from the field and averaged but 5.7 points over the three wins. Sunday at Carver-Hawkeye Arena, the Hawkeyes needed more from Perkins. They got it, and then some, and Iowa’s 81-67 triumph that extended the win streak to four.
Iowa is 4-3 in the Big Ten, 12-6 total.
Perkins scored a career-high 22 points. He was part of a smaller Iowa lineup that not only survived first-half foul trouble to big men Kris Murray and Filip Rebraca, but thrived in the bigs’ absence.
Perkins scored Iowa’s first seven points of the second half, then turned the burden over to Murray, who had 17 of his 19 points after halftime.
“Make moves, get to the rim, and do what I can do best,” Perkins described his thinking. “Get pullups, just play my game.”
His game was brilliant, whether finishing at the rim or stopping for short jumpers. He made 10 of 13 shots to lead Iowa’s season-best 60 percent shooting.
Perkins’ signature moment was when Murray blocked a second-half Maryland shot, Perkins got the rebound, passed to Connor McCaffery, then streaked down the left side of the floor to receive a McCaffery bounce pass from half-court. Perkins jumped over Maryland’s Donald Carey for an authoritative, crowd-pleasing dunk.
At halftime, teammates were telling Perkins he could have had three dunks by that point instead of zero.
“Dunk the ball, you don’t dunk no more?” Perkins related them as saying. “So when I got I was like ‘Forget it, I’m just gonna dunk so they can shut up.’”
With Murray and Rebraca out for half of the half, Perkins, McCaffery, Ahron Ulis, Payton Sandfort and Josh Dix helped Iowa build a 16-point lead.
In the half, Perkins scored 15 points, Dix had five assists, McCaffery three steals, Ulis seven points and three assists, and Sandfort nine points.
The lead was trimmed to 43-33 by halftime, and to 43-41 in the first two minutes of the second half. Hakim Hart and Donta Scott made 3-pointers for the Terrapins (2-4, 11-6) in the first 47 seconds of the half.
Iowa responded. Murray made a 3-pointer for a 53-44 Hawkeye lead with 13:12 left and Maryland never got closer than six points after that. Murray had 10 points in the last six minutes.
But it was the guards’ game. Perkins, said Maryland Coach Kevin Willard, “was phenomenal. … I know he’s struggled, but I’m a huge fan of the way he plays. I think he’s kind of like their glue guy.
“He doesn’t take a 3 and gets 22 points. He just knows who he is and he knows his game and sticks to it. He doesn’t try to do anything he doesn’t need to do.”
Willard said he thought it was Connor McCaffery’s best game of the season. The 6-foot-6 senior played all but nine seconds. He had 12 points and four assists, and was Iowa’s primary post defender with Murray and Rebraca out.
Iowa resumes play at home Wednesday night at 8 against Northwestern (3-3, 12-5).
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