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Payton Sandfort sizzles, Hawkeyes burn Rutgers on the road, 76-65
Sandfort scores 22 points, Iowa never trails in win over Scarlet Knights team that had won its last five games.
(This story was written in Cedar Rapids.)
PISCATAWAY, N.J. — Payton Sandfort’s jump shot has been located, and it stung Rutgers repeatedly Sunday afternoon.
The Iowa men’s basketball sophomore made three straight 3-pointers in the span of 2:27 after the Scarlet Knights used a 12-0 run to pull within 55-50, and hit a 2-point jumper a minute later. The Hawkeyes proceeded to a 76-65 win at Jersey Mike’s Arena.
With its second win in four days, Iowa improved to 2-3 in the Big Ten, 10-6 overall. Rutgers, which had won its last five games including one at No. 1 Purdue last Monday, is 3-2 and 11-5.
Before Iowa’s 91-89 home win over Indiana last Thursday, Sandfort had been 0-for-19 from the field in Big Ten games. He was 6-of-8 Sunday, 4-of-5 from 3-point range, and had a game-high 22 points.
“He’s been going through a lot,” said Iowa’s Filip Rebraca on the Hawkeye Radio Network postgame show, “but that’s why you work hard every day and that’s why he’s been in the gym 24/7.
“Basketball gods work in mysterious and funny ways, you know. Tonight they showed they’re watching all the time, and how much work you put in.”
Rebraca put in work himself, playing all 40 minutes for the first time as a Hawkeye. He had 16 points, 12 rebounds and three blocks, and drew six fouls in 40 minutes of play for Iowa.
“Fiilp is as tough a guy as there is,” said Iowa Coach Fran McCaffery. “He’s going to fight you. He was so physical and tough and effective at both ends.
“Man, was he incredible. So special. We love that guy.”
Kris Murray added 17 points for Iowa. Connor McCaffery had a season-high eight assists.
The Hawkeyes’ 12-of-27 from deep was their best perimeter performance in nearly a month, led by Sandfort.
“We get him going, we’re a different team,” Fran McCaffery said.
“You get a guy cooking like that, you’ve got to go to him. It’s one thing for me to go to him, but everybody on the court has to be together on that. We’ve got to load him up, get screens for him. We’ve got to hit him in his shot pocket. Because they were getting after him defensively.”
Iowa came out playing with crisp ball movement and efficient defense, and built an 8-0 lead. The Scarlet Knights scored the next five points, but that 8-5 score was as close as they got. Another 8-0 run for Iowa closed the first half and put it ahead 42-30.
The Hawkeyes led by as much as 18 points in the first five minutes of the second half. They went without a basket for 7:07 as Rutgers had that 12-0 run, but Sandfort shot down Rutgers after that.
“I told the guys that I don’t know that I’ve coached a game where they executed the game plan any better,” McCaffery said. “They were connected at both ends. We mixed defenses.
“We just fought ‘em.”
“Iowa’s the best offensive team in our league, and they looked that part,” Rutgers Coach Steve Pikiell said. “They looked like a ranked team against us.”
Iowa begins a three-game homestand Thursday with a 6 p.m. game against Michigan.
“We definitely feel we should get all three,” Rebraca said.
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