Iowa men’s basketball’s win over Rutgers showcases strides made late in season

The Hawkeyes led the entire second half in a comfortable win over the Scarlet Knights.


Dimia Burrell

Rutgers guard Geo Baker gets trapped by Iowa guard Tony Perkins and forward Patrick McCaffery during a men’s basketball game between No. 5 Iowa and No. 4 Rutgers in the Big Ten Basketball Tournament quarterfinals at Gainbridge Fieldhouse in Indianapolis on Friday, March 11, 2022. The Hawkeyes defeated the Scarlet Knights, 84-74. Iowa forced 5 turnovers.

Ben Palya, Pregame Editor

INDIANAPOLIS — The last time the Iowa men’s basketball team faced Rutgers, the Scarlet Knights had it their way.

The Hawkeyes were held to their lowest scoring total of the season at Jersey Mike’s Arena in January. Iowa averages 84.2 points per game and is the best scoring team in the Big Ten. At Rutgers however, the Hawkeyes were stifled and held to just 46 points. 

Early on in Iowa’s Big Ten Tournament rematch against the Scarlet Knights, the Hawkeyes appeared to be in for another difficult scoring night. In an eventual 84-74 win for Iowa that advanced it to the Big Ten Tournament semifinals, the Hawkeyes found themselves in an early 15-5 deficit four minutes into the game and had turned the ball over six times in the opening 10 minutes. 

However, as they have done during recent weeks, the black and gold responded in emphatic fashion. 

“We’ve learned how to get back up on different stretches,” Keegan Murray said. “We know that if we’re down a little bit, we can get on a run at any point in the game, so for us it’s just keeping the mentality that just never give up, whether we’re up 20 or down 20, that’s just kind of the mindset we’ve had these last stretch of games.”

Out of the first timeout, Iowa emerged with intensity and managed to push the tempo in their favor.

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Keegan Murray and Jordan Bohannon got to work, with Bohannon nailing a 3-pointer to spark the Iowa offense. Murray finished with 18 first-half points on his way to 26 and Iowa’s record for points in a season (750). Murray finished with only 13 points in the first matchup and was called for a questionable foul call late in the game. Another 15-1 run by Iowa saw the Hawkeyes balloon the lead to 12. Iowa finished with 41 first half points, just five off its overall point-total in their last matchup. 

Iowa continued to be relentless in the second half and led by as many as 18 points on their way.

The dominant performance was a far cry from their game at the Jersey Mike’s Arena. Iowa shot just 27.4 percent from the floor on the night and had no answer for the Big Ten’s second best scoring defense. Iowa nearly doubled their shooting percentage in the rematch by shooting 49.1 percent on the day. 

After faltering in the two team’s initial meeting, Keegan Murray was pleased with the better offensive effort and finish. 

We wanted to see them again at some point in the season, and just play our hardest out there,” he said. They’re a really good team, they’re really well coached, really physical, really good defenders. And it was a game that we really wanted. I feel like we played really well for 40 minutes today.”

Iowa have now won 10 of its last 12 games. All of those wins came by double-digits. Back in his home city of Indianapolis, Tony Perkins proved once again how important he’s been to Iowa’s turnaround. 

Perkins finished with 16 points on the night for his third double-digit scoring performance in his past four games.

Perkins’ uptick in form has been a massive boost for Iowa and has given it another dangerous weapon during the postseason. 

I had a shoulder injury, so that was on my mind a lot,” Perkins said. “But now with that being done and me taking care of that has really boosted my confidence. Coach has always told me to play my game, do what you do. And I’m always willing to be out there and do what I have to do for us to win in any situation.”

Perkins and the Hawkeyes will get a crack at another one of the Big Ten’s best defenses when they play Indiana in Saturday’s Big Ten Tournament Semifinal.