The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

Payton Sandfort sparks the Hawkeyes to victory in season opener against North Dakota

The third-year forward scored 13 points in the opening 5:32 of play and finished with a near double-double with 21 points and nine rebounds.
Darren Chen
Iowa guard Payton Sandfort attacks the rim during a men’s basketball game between Iowa and Southeast Missouri State at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City on Saturday, Dec. 17, 2022. The Hawkeyes defeated the Redhawks, 106-75. (Darren Chen/The Daily Iowan)

Third-year forward Payton Sandfort led the Iowa men’s basketball team with 21 points and nine rebounds as Iowa routed North Dakota, 110-68, in a historic season opener at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Tuesday. 

Iowa’s 110 points are the most points scored in a season opener in the 14-year tenure of men’s basketball head coach Fran McCaffery. The start of such history was sparked by Sandfort.

In his postgame media availability, Sandfort described having those “first game nerves” but maintained he zoned in on the game quickly. 

The forward actually started the game on a bad note with a turnover in the first six seconds of the game, but would immediately bounce back. He scored 13 of the team’s 21 points, hitting 4-of-5 field goals and 3-of-4 from three, as well as two free throws in the first 5:32 minutes of play to give the Hawkeyes an early 16-9 lead. 

After a six-minute rest on the bench, Sandfort’s shooting had cooled down, hitting just three more shots from inside the arc the rest of the way. The forward still made his presence felt on the defensive end by tallying seven defensive rebounds and two steals during the contest. 

McCaffery was pleased with what he saw from the third-year forward in the season opener, especially with his prowess in the rebounding department. Standing at six-foot-seven, Sandfort snagged two offensive boards. 

“The thing that I like about him right now is that he’s really putting his nose in their own glass as he’s playing some of the four spot,” McCaffery said. “He could pull the game open for you all by himself. He’s much better defensively and he’s incredibly versatile … We want to get two or three plays in our sets and get shots for him. That’s a very important [part of our gameplan].”

Iowa’s defense was clicking all game, forcing 19 turnovers out of North Dakota and translating those turnovers into 31 points. The Hawkeyes have made it a vocal point to emphasize that style of play.  

“It’s kind of our identity to be that up-tempo team,” Sandfort said. “I’m more proud of our defensive intensity. We came up flat against Quincy [in an exhibition game on Oct. 31] and we had to make a change. So that’s all we’ve been emphasizing in practice, and I’m really proud of our effort.” 

Even with Sandfort’s big night, Iowa’s rotation had a balanced output against the Fighting Hawks. Six players scored double-digit points, four players recorded at least five rebounds, and eight players snagged at least one steal. 

Payton Sandfort couldn’t leave without soaking in playing basketball with his younger brother, Pryce Sandfort, a first-year on the squad. He recalls seeing Pryce on the floor in a regular season game “a very special moment happening out there.”

Iowa will host Alabama State on Friday, Nov. 10 at 7 p.m. at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. The Hornets are coming off a 10-point loss to Ole Miss on Nov. 6 and are 0-1 on the season. 

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About the Contributors
Chris Meglio
Chris Meglio, Sports Reporter
Chris Meglio is a first year student at the University of Iowa studying a double major in sport studies and journalism. He will be working as a sports journalist for The Daily Iowan covering women's volleyball for the fall sports season.