Another Keegan Murray 30-point game leads Iowa basketball to blowout win over Nebraska
IOWA CITY — Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery made it clear that Nebraska had his team's full attention on Sunday, regardless of the Cornhuskers' win-loss record.
The Hawkeyes understood the situation: Win the game, and they'd have a winning record in Big Ten play for the first time this season. A furious first-half rally left little doubt in the final result.
The Hawkeyes defeated Nebraska by a decisive 98-75 margin for their third straight win. Iowa improved to 17-7 overall and 7-6 in the Big Ten, while Nebraska fell to 7-18 and 1-13 in conference play.
For the 21st time this season, Keegan Murray led the Hawkeyes in scoring. He finished Sunday's game with 37 points (on 15-of-21 shooting) while adding six rebounds. He has four games of 30+ points this season.
The opening minutes resembled the slow starts that have plagued Iowa throughout the season. The Hawkeyes began the game shooting 3-of-8 from the field and found themselves down 15-11 after the first six minutes. Then, like their last two games, a significant run changed the outlook of the game. Iowa outscored Nebraska 33-10 for the remainder of the half.
Iowa was sound defensively, forcing 12 Nebraska turnovers (19 points off turnovers) and holding the Cornhuskers to just 31% shooting from the field.
Keegan Murray set the tone on both sides of the ball. With the team down 15-11, Murray scored 10 consecutive points to give Iowa a 21-15 lead and jumpstart its strong first-half finish. Defensively, he took on the challenge of guarding Nebraska's Bryce McGowens, a strong candidate for Big Ten Freshman of the Year. McGowens finished with only 11 points on 3-of-13 shooting from the field.
Three other Hawkeyes — Kris Murray (12), Payton Sandfort (12) and Jordan Bohannon (10) — scored in double figures. Sandfort, a true freshman, did his damage in the first half, scoring 10 points on 4-of-5 shooting. He also finished the game with a career-high eight rebounds.
Carrying a 30-point lead into the second half, Iowa took its foot off the gas. Nebraska outscored the Hawkeyes 50-45 in the second half, much to the dismay of McCaffery. Still, Nebraska never got closer than 19 points.
Next up: an important set of games with a much higher uptick in competition, starting with Michigan on Thursday night at home. The Hawkeyes travel to Ohio State for a Saturday afternoon contest.
Kennington Lloyd Smith III covers Iowa Hawkeyes football and men's basketball for the Des Moines Register. You can connect with Kennington on Twitter @SkinnyKenny_ or email him at email@example.com.