Iowa basketball rolls into the holiday break with drubbing over Southeastern Louisiana

Dargan Southard
Hawk Central

IOWA CITY — The game immediately following a riveting victory in a unique venue contains problematic elements. Throw in the upcoming holidays, plus the perceivably easy foe, and Iowa's Tuesday affair with Southeastern Louisiana could've been concerning if the Hawkeyes weren't careful.

Iowa, though, did what it should with an overmatched opponent on the other side. Several Hawkeyes found positive moments to latch onto entering the eight-day stretch between games, while others kept rolling along undisturbed. Tuesday's final product was a 93-62 Iowa win at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

Once any upset threats are cleared, a game like this one becomes what you make it. Numerous Hawkeyes (9-3) didn't waste the chance at getting right, as Iowa constructed a double-digit lead for good with roughly eight minutes remaining in the first half. A team still discovering what exactly it has for the rugged Big Ten can gain plenty despite the lopsided score. 

There were the nice minutes for freshman Payton Sandfort, who ignited a first-half offensive lull with a couple knockdowns from beyond the arc. There was Keegan Murray's continual rebound from the Iowa State debacle. There were the early connections from Patrick McCaffery and the timely stretches from Tony Perkins to fill in between. 

There was also a tense skirmish in the first half, and an ejection (more on that later). Here's what we learned on a cold night in Iowa City. 

Iowa guard Payton Sandfort (20) makes a 3-point basket against Southeastern Louisiana on Tuesday at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City.

Freshman Payton Sandfort fires up

The Hawkeyes weren't in any danger as the final five minutes of the first half began, but the Lions had briefly trimmed their deficit to single digits and had a faint pulse. That's when Sandfort ignited. 

The former Waukee standout had eight points in a three-minute span, spearheaded by back-to-back treys that suddenly had the Hawkeyes up 17. He finished with 10 points in 16 minutes.      

Although Sandfort hadn't played much of late as Iowa's non-conference schedule intensified with some league games sprinkled in, his significant return to the box score offers promise he can be more than a sporadic asset in Big Ten play. 

"He's got the ultimate green light," Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said, "and I'm glad when he's in there, our guys look for him."

Iowa forward Keegan Murray (15) dominated again Tuesday in a short stint in a blowout win.

Keegan continues climbing

Nothing went right that Thursday night in Ames, but Murray's disappearance was particularly jarring. Since then, though? Iowa's top weapon has looked much more like his normal self. 

It was a modest start, with four points on just five first-half shots amid foul trouble, before Murray fully cranked into gear after the break. He ripped off 10 of Iowa's first 12 second-half points in less than five minutes, dominating with easy layups and uncontested buckets. 

"This was really the first time this year I've been in foul trouble," Murray said. "I just wanted to do my part and extend the lead."

A worthy stat line morphed into shape. Murray finished with 20 points on 8-for-13 shooting, plus 10 rebounds and an assist in 24 minutes. Murray did exit to the locker room during one stretch and admitted he rolled his ankle again. The severity, he thinks, isn't too bad. 

"It's not anything crazy like last time," Murray said. "I just want to be precautious of staying on it more. Thought someone else should be in the game for me and just take of it. It's nothing crazy it's just precautionary for the rest of the games coming up." 

Southeastern Louisiana's Keon Clergeot (4) walks off the court after getting ejected Tuesday against Iowa.

About that first-half tussle … 

Fireworks unfolded with roughly four minutes remaining in the first half, when Joe Toussaint and Southeastern Louisiana's Keon Clergeot hit the floor hard with neither relenting possession. The tie-up intensified quickly. 

Clergeot clocked Toussaint with a forearm to the face amid the struggle, sending Iowa's bench and the Hawkeyes on the floor into defense mode. Connor McCaffery seethed and glared at the Lions' huddle, pushing away his father's hands in an attempt to confront Clergeot. It happened right in front of the Iowa bench, so the Hawkeyes got a great look at Clergeot's antics. 

"I know we have people on our bench who probably aren't going to let Connor get over there," Patrick McCaffery said, "although he's going to try. He's pretty strong. I kind of got nervous a little bit because (Connor) threw (Clergeot) off and then tried to kind of follow him over there (to the bench)."

It was a swift review once both sides were corralled. Clergeot was assessed a Flagrant 2 and ejected. With only one tunnel at Carver-Hawkeye Arena, he had to walk right past the Iowa bench to depart. The Hawkeyes fans gave Clergeot an emphatic goodbye. 

Iowa forward Josh Ogundele gets helped off the floor by teammates Riley Mulvey, left, and Filip Rebraca on Tuesday.

Tough exit for Josh Ogundele

Minutes after checking in for the first time, Josh Ogundele lay crumpled under the basket, writhing in pain. He could put zero weight on his left leg after going down amid a fastbreak. 

Teammates helped the hobbled big man to the locker room. Fran McCaffery revealed postgame that Ogundele is dealing with a sprained ankle. 

"It's sore and swollen," Fran McCaffery said. "Turned his ankle. We'll see, day to day. He could be out a little while because it swelled pretty quickly. Felt bad for him because he's running the floor, ready to get a dunk and tweaked it."      

Dargan Southard covers Iowa and UNI athletics, recruiting and preps for the Des Moines Register, HawkCentral.com and the Iowa City Press-Citizen. Email him at msouthard@gannett.com or follow him on Twitter at @Dargan_Southard.