Iowa men’s basketball starts fast, routs No. 20 Iowa State

The Hawkeyes held the Cyclones scoreless for the first six minutes of Tuesday night’s game and jumped to a 15-point lead over that span.


Daniel McGregor-Huyer

Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery hugs his wife Margaret after a win over Iowa State at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. in Iowa City on Dec. 8, 2022. The Hawkeyes defeated the Cyclones, 75-56. McCaffery recorded his 500th career win as a head coach.

Grant Hall and Chris Werner

The Iowa State Cyclones were down by 15 points before their first basket fell in Tuesday night’s men’s basketball edition of the annual Cy-Hawk rivalry at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

Iowa was without standout forward Kris Murray, but the Hawkeyes’ 40-20 halftime lead proved too much to overcome for the visiting Cyclones.

Iowa held on throughout the second half to win, 75-56, largely thanks to the strong play of Serbian big man Filip Rebraca.

RELATED: Iowa men’s basketball forward Filip Rebraca steps up in win over Iowa State

Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery, who earned his 500th career win as a head coach on Thursday, said his team’s focus heading into the contest was the determining factor in the team’s fourth Cy-Hawk victory in five years.

“I think we have a very special, competitive group,” McCaffery said. “They were not pleased with how we played the other night [against Duke], they took responsibility, and they were locked in for practice yesterday. We didn’t talk about [the loss], we just prepared for the next one.”

RELATED: Iowa men’s basketball falls to Duke in Jimmy V Classic

Replacing Murray

After Tuesday night’s loss to the No. 15-ranked Blue Devils, Murray was spotted sporting a walking boot.

An hour and a half before tip-off, Iowa Athletics announced that Murray would miss the contest against Iowa State. Sixth-year senior Connor McCaffery started in his place.

RELATED: Iowa men’s basketball forward Kris Murray to miss Thursday’s Cy-Hawk game

Fran McCaffery said several players saw more minutes with Murray’s absence.

“Guys get hurt all the time,” he said. “He’s out, Connor [McCaffery] stepped in, Payton [Sandfort] is ready to go, everybody else is ready to go. We’ve got to get some minutes out of Josh Ogundele, and Josh Dix was really good tonight. Dasonte [Bowen] had a tough start, but he’ll be fine. You don’t talk about it; you just move on.”

Rebraca steps up

Fifth-year senior Filip Rebraca came up big for the Hawkeyes. The Serbian scored a season-high 22 points on 9-for-11 shooting and converted his first two 3-pointers of the season 2-for-2 behind the arc. He is now 2-for-3 fr

He also pulled down 11 rebounds, including five on the offensive end, en route to his third double-double of the season.

Fran McCaffery praised the 6-foot-9 pivot’s toughness in his post-game interview.

“Filip Rebraca is a gamer,” McCaffery said. “He will fight you. He’s just going to keep coming. Boy, was he impressive tonight.”

Fran picks up milestone win

After 26 seasons on the bench as a head coach, Fran McCaffery picked up his 500th career victory in the win over Iowa State.

After picking up 251 career wins in 16 years with stops at UNC-Wilmington and Siena, McCaffery embarked for Iowa City in March 2010 with wife Margaret and two sons, Connor and Patrick, in tow. 

13 seasons and 249 wins later, Fran McCaffery picked up lucky No. 500 against the Hawkeyes’ in-state rivals.

McCaffery’s son, Connor, who has been on the team for 112 of those wins, said the opportunity to share his father’s big moment with dad and younger brother Patrick was a special moment.

“When he subbed me out, I forgot for a second … but then Patrick was like, ‘Yo, 500!,’” Connor McCaffery said. “Then, when we went out on the court afterwards, that was special. I feel like [tonight] was exactly how he’s always wanted his teams to play, so it was just a perfect blend that exemplified win No. 500… it meant the world.”

Fran McCaffery credited his players and assistant coaches for the 500-win total. 

“I don’t consider myself having 500 wins,” Fran McCaffery said. I’m the coach. My responsibility is to put our guys in a position to win. I let them go win the game. I’ve been blessed. I’ve worked for great people. I’ve had tremendous coaches on my staff have been really good players everywhere I’ve been.”

While Fran McCaffery was modest about his milestone on Thursday, Connor McCaffery praised his father for his ability to build, maintain and motivate his teams.

“He’s just a really good coach,” Connor McCaffery said. “He’s a really good recruiter. Like he always identifies talent really early in the process. Like, eople that like the media doesn’t even care about that he’s on so long before anyone else and then they blow up like it’s insane.

“He’s just really good at his job. He knows what he’s doing. He knows how to lead a team. He keeps us motivated. And he’d have more than 500 if it wasn’t an assistant for 12, 13 years, whatever it was at Notre Dame …  I think it’s a great milestone. I’m happy, especially after a game like tonight.”

Big Picture

Thursday night’s victory propels the Hawkeyes to a 7-2 record after dropping two of their last three games.

Iowa’s shooting slump seems to have halted after a paltry 19-for-78  3-point conversion rate dating back to their 74-71 victory over Clemson on Nov. 25. The Hawkeyes came out firing against the Cyclones’ defense, converting 12 of their 23 opportunities from behind the arc.

Sophomore guard Payton Sandfort went 2-for-5 on triples, a welcome sight for Iowa fans after the Waukee native knocked down just two of his 21 3-point opportunities over the prior six games.

Up next

The Hawkeyes will face their first Big Ten opponent of the season when they welcome the Wisconsin Badgers to Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Sunday at 5:30 p.m. The contest against the 7-2 Badgers will be broadcast on Big Ten Network.