Keegan Murray's double-double powers Iowa basketball over Western Illinois 92-71
IOWA CITY — Wednesday night was strictly business for the Iowa men's basketball team.
The Hawkeyes beat Western Illinois, 92-71, before an announced crowd of 15,056 here at Carver-Hawkeye Arena to wrap up non-conference play. Iowa moves to 10-3 overall and will resume Big Ten play next week, against Maryland (7-4) on Monday here at home.
"That's a really good team," Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said afterward. "This was a really good win for us."
It was the Keegan Murray Show again for the Hawkeyes, who have now won three in a row after a three-game skid. The sophomore from Cedar Rapids posted his third double-double of the season and added to his nation's-leading scoring average, putting up 29 points on 13-of-20 shooting, plus 10 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 blocks and 3 steals.
Murray was one of four Hawkeyes to finish in double-figures. Jordan Bohannon added 13, giving him 1,780 for his career. In doing so, he passed both Greg Stokes and Acie Earl on Iowa's all-time career scoring list. Bohannon is now fourth on that list.
Patrick McCaffery added 11 and Payton Sandfort scored 13 off the bench, including 10 late in the first half that spurred the Hawkeyes' lopsided advantage.
Iowa led just 25-19 with 8 minutes and 5 seconds left in the first half. The Leathernecks, who dropped to 10-4 overall, charged back from a 10-2 hole on a couple of Colton Sandage three-pointers and some timely buckets from Pleasant Valley grad Will Carius.
Then Sandfort scored eight consecutive points for the Hawkeyes — two triples and a fast-break dunk — which fueled a 28-12 run that gave Iowa a 53-33 halftime lead. Iowa hit 10-of-14 shots during that stretch. Sandfort finished 5-of-7 shooting, and 3-of-3 from deep.
"He's a really confident player," Murray said of Sandfort. "When he's in the game, we want to get him the ball. As a shooter, when your first shot goes in, you gain confidence. You can see that on the court.
"He gained more confidence as the game went on, hit some big shots, and got us on a run. He was big today."
The Hawkeyes led by as many as 21, but Western Illinois came within 78-65 with 6:38 to play in the second half, an effort led by Trenton Massner, yet another former Iowa high schooler. Massner, from Wapello, poured in 20, 14 of which came in the second half. Sandage added 15 and Carius finished with 12.
But Bohanan hit four free throws, Kris Murray scored a second-chance layup and Tony Perkins added his own fast-break dunk to push Iowa's lead back to 19 with just five minutes left, effectively icing the game. (It helped, too, that Western Illinois, who ranked 14th nationally in made 3-pointers entering Wednesday, finished 5-of-30 from deep.)
"We wore them down," Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said. "Now they were open a couple. They missed a couple where we didn't do the appropriate slide and they just missed them. But we didn't give them a ton of seconds, and for the most part, we contested."
Connor McCaffery also went down with an ankle injury midway through the second half. Fran McCaffery said Connor, who finished with a single rebound in just 10 minutes, was limping afterward.
Iowa will now take a three-game win-streak — during which they've averaged 93 points per game — into next week's matchup against the Terps.
"We started out 0-2 (in league play), and that's not what we want to do," Bohannon said. "We have a lot of work to do to get back to where we want to be by the end of the year. It's going to be 10 toes down and continue to fight for what we want."
Cody Goodwin normally covers wrestling and high school sports for the Des Moines Register, but pitched in to cover Iowa basketball on Wednesday night. Follow him on Twitter at @codygoodwin.