Iowa men’s basketball downs Western Illinois, 92-71

The Hawkeyes powered past the Leathernecks in their final nonconference game of the 2020-21 season.


Dimia Burrell

Iowa forward Keegan Murray shoots a 3-pointer during a men’s basketball game between Iowa and Portland State at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City on Friday, Nov. 26, 2021. Murray scored 23 points. The Hawkeyes defeated the Vikings 85-51.

Isaac Goffin, Sports Reporter

Iowa men’s basketball defeated Western Illinois, 92-71, Wednesday night at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. Sophomore forward Keegan Murray, who registered his third double-double of the season, propelled the Hawkeyes to victory.

Murray racked up 29 points and 10 rebounds in a game that didn’t see the Hawkeyes trail..

The 6-foot-8 forward from Cedar Rapids scored 18 of his points and grabbed eight of his boards in the first half. 

“Just being aggressive on both ends of the court,” Murray said of his performance. “Obviously, I want to change the game in different ways — versatile on both sides of the basketball. I was able to take advantage on the defensive end, and then making those run-outs and transition layups obviously helped us increase the lead.”  

Freshman Payton Sandfort also had a memorable night. The freshman from Waukee, Iowa, tallied 13 points, Sandfort’s collegiate career-high is 21 points. 

“He was terrific in the first half in a lot of different ways,” Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery said. “He had three offensive rebounds, if you think about the two 3s, which were huge, but he’s attacking the glass, making a difference in the game.”

Big picture

The 10-3 Hawkeyes have concluded their nonconference schedule. The only nonconference loss Iowa suffered was to then-No. 17 Iowa State on Dec. 9 at Hilton Coliseum in Ames.

The remainder of Iowa’s schedule contains Big Ten opponents. The Hawkeyes are 0-2 in conference play so far this season, registering losses to Purdue and Illinois.

Murray has become the focal point of Iowa’s offense, averaging 23.7 points per game. He leads the nation in scoring as of Wednesday evening.

Iowa is now 11-0 all-time against Western Illinois. The Hawkeyes have come up victorious in 77 of their last 82 nonconference home games.

Bohannon struggles from deep

Sixth-year senior Jordan Bohannon was six 3-pointers away from hitting 400 in his career heading into Wednesday’s matchup.

Bohannon went 1-of-6 from beyond the arc against the Leathernecks.

But the veteran Hawkeye tallied 13 points and made all six of his free throw attempts, finding other ways to contribute.

“It’s just something I learned throughout playing my whole life,” Bohannon said. “Understanding that, if something’s not working for me, I’ve got to create some other opportunities. I felt like we weren’t pushing the ball as hard as we can at the start of the middle of the game, and I was able to run some point a little bit and push the ball in transition.”

Bohannon also noted that once the Hawkeyes entered the bonus, he knew it was more important to shoot free throws than 3-pointers.  

Connor McCaffery suffers ankle injury 

Early in the second half, senior forward Connor McCaffery dropped to the ground after making contact with another player. He was assisted to the locker room by Iowa personnel. Connor McCaffery returned to the bench later in the contest, but did not check back into the game.

Fran McCaffery said his son turned an ankle.

“He’s walking, he’s limping, but I feel bad for him because he’s had the ankle issues earlier, then he had the back, now he’s back to the ankle,” Fran McCaffery said. “So, he was really playing well. In practice, he finally looked like he was 100 percent healthy. So, that’s what breaks your heart for him, but he’s tough. He’ll be back.”

Connor McCaffery had surgeries on both hips during the offseason after starting every game in 2020-21. He is averaging 1.2 points and 2.8 rebounds per game primarily off the bench this season.

Up next

The Hawkeyes will jump into the new year with a Big Ten matchup against Maryland on Monday at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. 

Monday’s game tips off at 8 p.m. on Big Ten Network.