Kris Murray, Tony Perkins lead Iowa men's basketball to easy wire-to-wire win at Indiana
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. − In a highly anticipated rematch between Iowa and Indiana men's basketball, the Hawkeyes delivered one of their most impressive performances of the season.
Two poor road performances in a row had Hawkeye fans anxious about Tuesday's trip to Assembly Hall. But the Hawkeyes were the aggressors early and never trailed in a dominant 90-68 road win.
Four Iowa players scored in double figures, led by Tony Perkins' 23 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists and Kris Murray's 26 points and seven rebounds. Filip Rebraca added 16 points and eight rebounds, and Payton Sandfort recorded 16 points. Iowa shot 56% from the field and 57% from the 3-point line.
"If you sign up to play in this league, you want to play in this type of environment," coach Fran McCaffery said. "And you have to want to compete against (Indiana), a team that's playing really well. The fact we out-rebounded them (by 12) showed how we competed but you hit 13 threes on the road, you have a good chance to win."
With Tuesday's win, Iowa improves to 19-11 overall, 11-8 in Big Ten play and is in position for a strong regular-season finish.
"I feel like we're really hitting our stride," Murray said. "Feels like we kept the momentum going from (Saturday's win over Michigan State) and about this time last year we were doing the same thing: winning big games on the road. I think adjusting to playing on the road, which we'll have to do in March is big for us. We really wanted this win just for that."
Kris Murray and Tony Perkins set an early tone for Iowa offensively
Perkins predicted that Iowa's hot shooting in its comeback win over Michigan State on Saturday would carry over to Tuesday night. And it certainly did in the first half as Iowa had a blistering start on offense.
"We were still pumped up (after the Michigan State game)," Perkins said. "We came into practice the next day and got right to it with the same mindset. We lost a few games on the road and wanted to come with that road killer mentality and we did that (on Tuesday)."
Murray started the scoring frenzy with two early 3-pointers that gave the Hawkeyes a 6-0 advantage in the game's first minute. A few seconds later Rebraca added a transition layup that forced an early Hoosiers timeout. Iowa's past road shooting woes weren't present in Bloomington as the team posted a 5-of-5 start from the field and 3-of-3 start. Iowa led 16-5 at the first media timeout.
"I think they were switching (defenders) a lot more than they had against us previously," Murray said. "Just confusing them with movement off the ball got me a couple of looks early. The basket looked really big tonight for me. I needed that, I've been struggling the last few games."
More:Iowa women's basketball star Caitlin Clark repeats as Big Ten player of the year
The Hoosiers made a run in front of a nearly sold-out Assembly Hall crowd. Star forward Trayce Jackson-Davis powered Indiana's offense with 15 first-half points along with seven rebounds and three assists. After a series of Iowa misses, it was a three-point game near the halfway mark. But the Hawkeyes found a spark in Perkins.
The Indianapolis native delivered an emotionally charged first half that ignited Iowa on both sides of the court. He shared words with the home crowd after almost every basket, controlled the pace with his passing and was vocal during Iowa timeouts. McCaffery and players noted that Perkins had nearly 35 family members in attendance. His homecoming performance was a pivotal part of Iowa's win.
"(My teammates) know when I'm into the game I'm talking and playing hard," Perkins said. "I'm showing that I want to win and showing energy and that locks them in too and they're behind me 100 percent. And I'm the same way with them, whoever brings the spark I'm with them."
More:What college basketball world is saying about Iowa's improbable comeback over Michigan St.
The rest of the team fed off of that energy and the Perkins/Murray duo powered Iowa to a 47-36 halftime lead. Perkins and Murray combined for 28 points, seven rebounds and nine assists in the first half. As a team, the Hawkeyes recored more 3-pointers in the first half (7) than their previous two road games combined (6) against Northwestern and Wisconsin.
McCaffery noted that it was a byproduct of sound offensive execution in other areas that opened up shots, something that's evaded Iowa in past road games.
"We got some back-cut layups, (Tony Perkins) had space to drive the ball," McCaffery said. "I thought our ball movement and screening and cutting with a purpose was critical. If you don't do those things, you'll have a hard time beating this team."
The Hawkeyes battled second-half adversity and played strong defense
The Hawkeyes began the second half with three turnovers in less than a minute, which re-ignited the Hoosier crowd. But Iowa settled down behind continued excellence from Murray and Perkins.
"Really uncharacteristic start, give (Indiana) credit," McCaffery said. "That would've been an opportunity to panic and give the rest of the lead away. The fact that we were able to get (the lead) back to double digits and extend it from there is certainly what you want as a coach but the guys showed incredible resiliency there. And we got the stops we needed."
Murray briefly silenced the crowd with a 3-pointer that extended Iowa's lead to 50-38 at the 18:54 mark, and from there either he or Perkins scored or assisted on Iowa's next six baskets, which came in succession after the initial turnovers. In a matter of four minutes, a nine-point Iowa lead swelled to a comfortable 61-40 advantage and the game was firmly in hand.
More:Did Fran McCaffery's staredown with ref spark Iowa basketball's improbable win Saturday?
Iowa's final test came at the 11:12 mark when Murray and Rebraca sat on the bench with three fouls each and Iowa holding a 66-45 lead. A lineup of Perkins, Josh Dix, Payton Sandfort, Patrick McCaffery and Josh Ogundele provided a few solid minutes to keep Iowa's lead at 20 points with eight minutes to play when starters re-entered the game.
It was an important moment in the game for McCaffery, who opted to remove a pair of starters who were playing at a high level on Tuesday (and matched up well with Indiana's Jackson-Davis) in favor of Dix and Ogundele, two seldom-used reserves as of late. But he offered praise to them postgame for being prepared when an opportunity arose.
"It's not easy to come into that situation," McCaffery said. "Josh (Ogundele) had a quick foul but then had a block, rebound and set some good screens, and Josh Dix is usually rock solid. I expected them to be able to hold it down."
Despite the overall excellence on offense, Iowa's defense was perhaps the most impressive part of Tuesday night's win. The Hawkeyes surrendered 21 fewer points than their 91-89 win over Indiana on Jan. 5. The Hoosiers (20-10, 11-8) were held to 18% from the 3-point line.
Jackson-Davis finished with 26 points but no other Hoosier starter finished in double figures. Guard Jalen Hood-Schifino, who scored 35 points in Indiana's prior game against Purdue and 21 points against Iowa in January was held to just eight points on 4-14 shooting.
And Indiana rarely had a second-chance opportunity: Iowa won the rebounding battle by a +12 margin and allowed only six offensive rebounds. Four different Hawkeys had five rebounds and for the second straight game, Perkins led the team in rebounds (10).
"I needed help with a great player like (Jackson-Davis)," Rebraca said. "My job is to box him out, I might not get every rebound but I trust my teammates. We saw our guards have long rebounds, I trust my teammates when I have such a big task."
More:Why Lukas Van Ness, Iowa football's 'Hercules,' is a dream prospect at this week's NFL Combine
What does Tuesday night's win mean for Iowa's season?
Tuesday was arguably the biggest win of Iowa's season and positions the team nicely for a good final placement in the Big Ten standings. At 11-8, the Hawkeyes need a senior day win on Sunday against Nebraska to stay in contention for a top-4 seed and a double-bye in the conference tournament. A win against Nebraska plus a loss by either by Northwestern, Maryland or Michigan will secure a top-4 seed, and there's a chance for the Hawkeyes to finish as high as second.
Sunday's game vs. Nebraska is scheduled for 1 p.m. (Big Ten Network).