‘We were destined for greatness:’ Iowa men’s basketball team wins four games in four days for Big Ten title

No. 5 seed Iowa defeated No. 3 seed Purdue, 75-66, in the conference title game on Sunday to win the program’s first Big Ten Tournament title since 2006.


Dimia Burrell

Iowa celebrates a win during a men’s basketball game between No. 5 Iowa and No. 3 Purdue in the Big Ten Basketball Tournament Championship at Gainbridge Fieldhouse in Indianapolis on Sunday, March 13, 2022. The Hawkeyes defeated the Boilermakers, 00-00. (Dimia Burrell/The Daily Iowan)

Robert Read, Pregame Editor

INDIANAPOLIS — Keegan Murray stood at the free-throw line with both of his hands on his head as the final seconds of the Big Ten Men’s Basketball Tournament Championship Game ticked off the clock. The only thing he could think to say was “Oh my God” over and over.

The Hawkeye fans in attendance at Gainbridge Fieldhouse probably had similar reactions.

For the first time since 2006, the Hawkeyes are Big Ten Men’s Basketball Tournament Champions. No. 5 seed Iowa defeated No. 3 seed Purdue, 75-66, in the title game on Sunday to win the program’s third-ever conference tournament title. Iowa beat Northwestern, Rutgers, Indiana, and Purdue over a four-day span to become champions. Iowa is the fourth team in Big Ten Tournament history to win four games in four days to earn the title. 

“I don’t know if I’ve ever been more proud of a team than this group,” Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery said.

Tony Perkins chucked the basketball into the air as the final buzzer sounded. Fran McCaffery tightly hugged his sons, Connor and Patrick McCaffery, and his face turned red for a different reason than it usually does when the fiery head coach is on the floor. Iowa’s 12th-year head coach couldn’t contain his tears. Confetti fell from the rafters. Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren presented the Hawkeyes with the tournament trophy as Iowa fans chanted “Let’s Go Hawks” and the University of Iowa marching band played the Hawkeye fight song.

Iowa trailed for all but two minutes and 17 seconds combined in its two losses to Purdue during the regular season. The Hawkeyes led for the entire first half on Sunday.

Purdue took a two-point lead minutes into the second half, but Iowa took it right back. The Boilermakers went on a 7-0 run in a 45-second span to bring Iowa’s lead down to one with 3:09 remaining. Fran McCaffery called timeout to cool the run, and Connor McCaffery knocked down an and-one jumper immediately out of the break.

RELATED: Iowa men’s basketball team earns No. 5 seed in NCAA Tournament, will play Richmond on Thursday

The Hawkeyes closed the game on a 12-4 run to seal their championship win.

Keegan Murray, who scored 19 points and grabbed 11 rebounds, was voted Most Outstanding Player after scoring 103 points over four games to break the tournament’s record.

This honor comes two days after the sophomore forward broke Iowa’s single-season scoring record, and one day after he hit a career-high eight 3-pointers in Iowa’s semifinals win. Murray and Iowa guard Jordan Bohannon — who hit a game-winning 3-pointer against Indiana on Saturday — were both named to the All-Tournament team. Twelve different Hawkeyes played against the Boilermakers. Perkins scored 11 points, while Payton Sandfort scored 10.

It really is a dream,” Bohannon said. “Everyone on the team was so committed this offseason and we knew that we had something special here. I love these guys, I love coach. Everything that we have done has been the right way and that’s just what makes it so perfect.”

The Hawkeyes were picked to finish ninth in the Big Ten by ESPN before the season and started Big Ten play 4-6. A year after losing two-time National Player of the Year Luka Garza, current-NBA player Joe Wieskamp, and key players CJ Fredrick and Jack Nunge, Iowa went 7-1 in February and is now 5-1 in March — with four of those victories coming in a four-day span this weekend in Indianapolis — on its way to a title. The Hawkeyes’ average margin of victory since the start of February is 16.4 points per game.

Iowa’s 26 wins this season are the program’s most since 1986-87 (30).

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Just last weekend, the Hawkeye women’s basketball team celebrated a conference tournament title on the same floor as the men’s team just did. This is the fourth time in conference history that a school has swept both the Big Ten women’s and men’s tournament championships (Iowa 2001, Ohio State 2010, Ohio State 2011, Iowa 2022).

“We knew we were destined for greatness,” Keegan Murray said. “We changed the history of the Iowa program today.”

Iowa can write more history in the coming days.

The Hawkeyes danced in the locker room after the game upon hearing they were a No. 5 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Iowa is the No. 5 seed in the Midwest Region of the 2022 NCAA Tournament and will play Richmond in Buffalo, New York, in the first round of the tournament on Thursday.