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Hawkeyes ousted by Auburn in NCAA first-rounder Thursday, 83-75
Iowa fell behind by 17 in second half, pulled within 4, but then the Tigers pulled away again
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — For the second-straight year, Iowa was eliminated from the NCAA men’s basketball tournament on Thursday of the first week.
The Hawkeyes were defeated by Auburn 83-75 in Legacy Arena Thursday evening, closing their season with a 19-14 record and losses in their final three games.
Iowa shaved a 17-point second-half deficit to 66-62 with 4:10 left, but the Tigers scored the next four points and never led by as little as six points again.
The first half was a slog for the Hawkeyes. They missed all nine of their 3-pointers and didn’t attempt a 10th in the final 6:48 of the half.
It wasn’t as if Auburn was torching Iowa from deep, going 1-of-9 from three in the half. The Tigers, however, turned the ball over just three times in the half. Iowa had just two points off turnovers and two second-chance points. That coupled with the shooting made for the five-point deficit.
Filip Rebraca had 10 points in the half. Kris Murray scored four in the first 2:17 of the game, but didn’t score again in the half, missing four 3-pointers. Payton Sandfort missed all three of his 3s, air-balling his last try of the half.
Murray and Sandfort heated up after that. Sandfort had a game-high 21 points, 17 after halftime. Murray had 11 second-half points.
But Iowa was 7-of-27 from 3-point, and couldn’t make up for it.
Connor McCaffery got the Hawkeyes’ first 3 when he beat the shot clock with 18:38 left to cut Auburn’s lead to 34-29. His team didn’t score again for three minutes, nearing the first-half droughts of 4:33 and 3:29 it had.
Auburn cranked up the 3-point shooting in the second half, too quickly for Iowa’s tastes. The Tigers sank 7 of 12 triples in the first 8:53 of the second half. A 13-2 run gave Auburn a 58-41 lead with 10:50 left.
Reserve guard Tre Donaldson, who came in averaging 2.1 points and had made eight 3-pointers all season, sank three in a row in the space of 1:40.
The Hawkeyes got within 64-60 with 5:04 left. Getting any closer was not to be.
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