Payton Sandfort, Filip Rebraca career-highs lift Iowa men’s basketball over Southeast Missouri State

The Hawkeyes defeated the Redhawks, 106-75, at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Saturday night.


Matt Sindt

Iowa sophomore forward Payton Sandfort battles a Southeast Missouri State defender during a basketball game between the Hawkeyes and the Redhawks on Saturday Dec. 17 at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. Sandfort scored a career-high 24 points on 9-of-13 shooting as Iowa defeated Southeast Missouri State, 106-75.

Chris Werner, Assistant Sports Editor

Behind career-high point totals from both sophomore Payton Sandfort and senior Filip Rebraca, the Iowa men’s basketball team routed the Southeast Missouri State Redhawks, 106-75, Saturday night at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. 

Sandfort’s 24 points on 9-of-13 shooting from the field and 2-of-6 from 3-point land, came after the 6-foot-7 215-pounder endured an eight-game shooting slump of epic proportions. 

Over that stretch, Sandfort — a 41.8 percent shooter from the field and a 36.6 percent shooter from beyond the arc as a freshman — made just 14 of 55 shots from the field and three of 29 3-point tries. 

“He’s incredibly conscientious,” Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery said of Sandfort postgame.”I mean, he really works hard. And he’s in the gym all the time, all year long, not just during the season. So you know, then he starts to struggle, and he was just getting down on himself a little bit. And, you know, the staff stayed positive with him,  teammates stayed positive with him, his family did, and this was just a matter of time.”

Sandfort missed his first shot of the night, but then they started to fall for the Waukee, Iowa, native, and they fell quickly. 

In the middle portion of the first half — between the 8:20 mark and the 4:03 mark — Sandfort poured in 17 points, missing only one of his eight shots in that span.

“It’s been a tough stretch,” Sandfort said. “But I’m really proud of myself. I think I really found myself through the stretch both on and off the court. A lot of rough nights, but I just continued to put in the work. And that’s not gonna stop the regardless of the outcome, I’m not going to change who I am or what I do. 

“I think the most important thing was I was just having fun again,” Sandfort continued. “I’ve made this like — just overthinking everything more than what it is, so just going out there and being me, having fun with my teammates, winning games, that was fun.”

Sandfort said during his slump, he had to re-discover his “love for the game.”

“I’ve played this game forever,” Sandfort said. “And I think that the biggest thing I had to get back to was playing it like it was a game again. I made it just too stressful myself put too much pressure on myself, which makes the game really hard, so I just had to work through it and find my love for the game again, and then just keep putting in the work.”

Sandfort’s teammates celebrated nearly every basket he scored Saturday, jumping around on the bench and handing out high fives as the unit got back on defense. 

Rebraca, who tallied 30 points, said Sandfort’s shooting performance was good to see, as the Hawkeyes need him to score if they’re going to play at their best this season.

“You know, he missed a few to start, and then once it started falling, it’s like, never-ending, I guess,” Rebraca said. “It’s really good to see him score because we need him. And this is going to be very useful for us as a team.”

Rebraca records career-high

While Rebraca’s 30 points on 12-of-13 shooting was an impressive offensive display, both the Serbian big man and his head coach said the six assists he collected on the night were as, if not more, important than his scoring output. 

“Thirty points is a career-high for me in college basketball, but also six assists is a career-high for me,” Rebraca said. “So I don’t know how I feel. I feel very happy about both because, you know, just being aggressive also opens shots for my teammates and allowed me to get six assists.”

McCaffery added that Rebraca was a big part of the gameplan against the Redhawks. 

While Southeast Missouri State’s starting center outweighed Rebraca by 20 pounds, none of the other Redhawk starters were within 50 pounds of him.

“He was the focal point of the game plan, we wanted to go inside with him, but the thing about him, and I was so impressed with was, you know, more than the [30 points and nine rebounds,] was the six assists,” McCaffery said of Rebraca. “We did that a lot in the Iowa State game. We’re playing through him because he can dribble pass and shoot so that’s a great weapon to have.”

Up next

The Hawkeyes will take on Eastern Illinois Panthers on Dec. 21 at Carver-Hawkeye Arena for their final nonconference regular season game of the year. Iowa will play Nebraska on Dec. 29 and will play against Big Ten opponents for the remainder of the regular season after its matchup in Lincoln.