IOWA CITY — In the closing seconds on Saturday afternoon against Michigan State, Iowa men’s basketball’s 3-point shooting came alive.. a welcome sight compared to its previous two outings. After a 6-52 stretch, the biggest question looming over Saturday’s contest was obvious: Could Iowa break its recent shooting slump?
The answer was yes and the catalyst was Payton Sandfort. His six 3-pointers sparked an improbable Hawkeye comeback which ended in a 112-106 win over Michigan State. For the game, Iowa shot 47% (17-36) from long range.
The Hawkeyes put forth a furious comeback attempt in the final 30 seconds. 3-pointers by Murray, Connor McCaffery and Patrick McCaffery brought Iowa within four points or less on three separate occasions. Finally, after Michigan State missed its first free throw of the half, Sandfort connected on his six 3-pointer of the day, with three seconds left to tie the game and send it to overtime.
Five Hawkeys finished in double-figures: Filip Rebraca (18), Kris Murray (26), Payton Sandfort (22) and Tony Perkins (24) and Connor McCaffery (10). Michigan State’s 63% shooting form the field was nearly too much to overcome but Iowa showed enough resiliency down the stretch.
With the win, Iowa improves to 18-11 overall, 10-8 in Big Ten play and delivers a much-needed bounce back win.
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Hawkeye fans anxiously waited on Saturday to see if their presence would inspire better perimeter shooting. After two bad misses, forward Connor McCaffery connected on a 3-pointer at the 14:47 mark to give Iowa a 15-12 advantage. However, three consecutive misses followed and temporarily, the shooting woes continued.
In place of 3-pointers, Iowa relied on forward Filip for a steady source of offense. The fifth-year senior opened the game on a 5-5 start from the field (all within the first 10 minutes of play) and paced Iowa to a five-point lead midway to halftime. Then finally, the Hawkeyes found a source of consistent shooting from sophomore Payton Sandfort.
Sandfort’s three 3-pointers accounted for half of Iowa’s total in the first. Iowa’s 38% from long range was a welcomed sight (usually a 36% shooting team at home) but it was overshadowed by the blistering shooting by the Spartans, who shot 75% in the first half.
Michigan State’s efficiency from the floor (63% from the field in the first half) was matched by timely scoring that didn’t allow Iowa to seize momentum. A Sandfort 3-pointer at the 7:29 mark put Iowa up by five points, Michigan State’s Joey Hauser answered with a three of his own on the next possession. Ahron Ulis’ 3-pointer at the 1:59 mark gave Iowa a four-point lead that was immediately cut to one on the Spartans next possession. A pair of Rebraca free throws gave Iowa a 42-39 lead with a minute left to halftime, a Michigan State 3-pointer with six seconds left sent teams to the break tied.
Michigan State’s hot shooting continued in the opening minutes of the second half. The Spartans opened the half with a 6-8 start from the field and took a 58-52 lead with about 15 minutes to play.
Iowa’s offense was more sound in the second period, led by Tony Perkins who scored a trio of 3-pointers early to keep pace with Michigan State’s shooting, but another game with poor team defensive rotations produced open looks for the opposing team.
But ultimately, Iowa’s clutch shooting outlasted the Spartans. All it took was one Michigan State missed free throw or Iowa to take advantage and force overtime. And in the overtime period, the Hawkeyes controlled the game offensively with a 9-3 advantage and a game-high six points form Perkins.
Iowa’s back-to-back losses caused unrest within the fan base as the regular season reached an end but Saturday’s win solidified the Hawkeyes as an NCAA Tournament team. Road struggles and defensive breakdowns are still valid concerns, but Iowa’s ability to stay in games should not be shortchanged.