Iowa basketball nearly blows 23-point lead but hangs on to beat Minnesota

Chad Leistikow
Hawk Central

MINNEAPOLIS — This Iowa men's basketball season has turned into the Keegan Murray show, and for good reason.

The Iowa sophomore and nation’s second-leading scorer was sensational again Sunday afternoon, showing the wide array of moves in his vast arsenal at Williams Arena, including in the dramatic final minute.

Contributions from Murray’s supporting cast will be a necessary element if the Hawkeyes are going to turn this season into an NCAA Tournament bid. On Thursday against Indiana, it was Kris Murray — Keegan’s identical-twin brother — who stepped to the forefront with a 29-point outburst.

On Sunday, it was Filip Rebraca’s turn to have a tremendous game. The graduate transfer from North Dakota set an aggressive tone on the offensive glass early and helped spark the Hawkeyes to a big lead. They hung on for an 81-71 win against a depleted Minnesota roster at “The Barn.”

Rebraca nearly had a double-double by halftime and finished with an impressive line of 12 points, 12 rebounds, two blocks and three steals.

Filip Rebraca, right, blocks the shot of Minnesota guard Luke Loewe in the first half of the Hawkeyes' road win Sunday.

Maybe playing north of Mason City suits Rebraca well. He scored 23 points a year ago at Williams Arena while playing for North Dakota in a road game against the Gophers. He also had a 10-point, eight-rebound game here as a sophomore.

Now a 24-year-old senior at Iowa, Rebraca seems to be finding his place with the Hawkeyes. If opponents are going to pay too much attention to Keegan Murray, Rebraca needs to make them pay. He did that Sunday with five offensive rebounds in the first half alone against a Minnesota front line that was overmatched with 6-foot-9, 240-pound Eric Curry sidelined for Minnesota.

Rebraca also showed off his athleticism, collecting a steal and coast-to-coast dunk to push Iowa’s lead to 31-19. 

Rebraca's 10th rebound of the day also was on the offensive end, and he found Joe Toussaint, who found Jordan Bohannon for a 3-pointer and a 63-40 lead with 11:54 to go. That hefty advantage proved important, as Minnesota scrambled back to within 74-71 with 1:30 to play. 

But with the shot clock winding down, Keegan Murray splashed a huge 3-pointer from the top of the key to extend Iowa's lead to 77-71 with 59 seconds to go. Murray finished with 25 points and 10 rebounds.

From there, Bohannon dropped home four straight free throws to complete the winning margin. Bohannon and Patrick McCaffery finished with 12 points apiece.

Iowa completed a much-needed 2-0 week and improved to 13-4 overall and 3-3 in Big Ten Conference play. 

Minnesota, meanwhile, fell to 10-5 and 1-5. The Gophers were without four players and two assistant coaches due to COVID-19 protocols or injury. Minnesota failed to field a winning performance with just seven scholarship players available.

Iowa fifth-year senior Connor McCaffery did not play due to what a university spokesman said was back soreness.

The Hawkeyes next travel to Rutgers (10-6, 4-2) for a 7:30 p.m. Wednesday game that will be televised on Big Ten Network.