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IOWA CITY — Iowa forward Filip Rebraca is no stranger to rivalry games.
Just ask him.
“I don’t know if you guys know,” Rebraca said after composing a signature performance for the Hawkeyes in Thursday’s 75-56 Cy-Hawk men’s basketball rout of No. 20 Iowa State before a raucous crowd of 14,535 at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. “Maybe you guys should read about Red Star and Partizan in Serbia. They’re the two biggest clubs. My dad played for Partizan. I played for Partizan. No matter how intense this is, I’ve experienced similar things over there.”
Rebraca, a 6-foot-9 senior from Sombor, Serbia, scored an Iowa career-high 22 points on 9-of-11 shooting. He sank both of his 3-point attempts after going 0-for-1 form beyond the arc in the previous eight games. He matched a season high with 11 rebounds and doled out a Hawkeye career-high four assists while helping his team race to a 15-0 lead early in a rivalry game that was never close.
“It stands to reason that in year two (after transferring from North Dakota), with the experience that he’s gotten, he would be ready,” said Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery, whose team improved to 7-2 as he notched his 500th career win. “But at the end of the day, Filip Rebraca, I mean, he’s a gamer. He will fight you.”
The rest of the Hawkeyes proved willing to battle, as well, outscoring the Cyclones (7-2) 40-20 in the first half despite the absence of leading scorer and rebounder Kris Murray, who sustained what was described as a lower-body injury in Tuesday’s 74-62 loss to 15th-ranked Duke.
Murray, McCaffery said, is not expected to play in Sunday’s Big Ten opener against Wisconsin, and it’s unclear when the star junior will be able to return.
“I think it’s (too) early in the process to make the determination,” McCaffery said.
It didn’t take long Thursday to determine the Hawkeyes would avenge last season’s humbling 73-53 loss to ISU at Hilton Coliseum.
Iowa led by as many as 29 points and beat the Cyclones for the fourth time in the past five meetings. ISU missed all 11 of its first-half 3-point attempts and despite forcing 18 Hawkeye turnovers, the Cyclones were outscored 20-14 in points off such miscues.
“The first time on the road for our group and it seemed like it got to us,” ISU head coach T.J. Otzelberger said. “We just didn’t set the tone with our defensive physicality and intensity that we usually do and as a result, they had great confidence early and they carried that over.”
Connor McCaffery added 14 points and four assists, and his younger brother, Patrick, scored 13 points on 5-for-8 shooting. The Hawkeyes shot 50 percent from the field and a blistering 52.2 percent (12-for-23) from 3-point range one game after missing 13 of 16 long-range shots against the Blue Devils.
“We all played confident,” said Connor McCaffery, who went 8-for-8 from the free throw line and snared two of Iowa’s six steals. “I think we all saw when people were saying that Kris was out, we saw — especially after the Duke game, too, we saw the hate. We kind of just felt like, ‘Hey, we know what we’ve got, we know who we are, we’re gonna make shots eventually.’ And that’s what we did tonight.”
Especially Rebraca, who played a game-high 37 minutes, grabbed five of the Hawkeyes’ seven offensive rebounds and blocked three shots.
“I think we remember what happened last year,” Rebraca said. “We wanted to come out and show what we’re about. I think we imposed our will throughout the whole game and, yeah, we were up in their space.”
So while it wasn’t Red Star vs. Partizan, it was Iowa’s most complete performance of the season — and it came against its in-state rival one season after being blown out on the road.
“This is just such an emotional game,” Connor McCaffery said. “There’s so much that goes into it for the state. This game, it just means more.”