BREAKING: Basketball games are a lot easier to win when your threes are falling like rain. Iowa turned a hot start into a molten hot first half and rode that 63-36 halftime lead to an easy 108-82 win on Thursday night to improve to 4-0 on the season. Iowa's game against North Carolina Central was a dogfight that required some bold substitutions and a second half surge to pull away; this game was easy street practically from the opening tip.
Iowa jumped out to a 3-0 lead behind a three-pointer from Keegan Murray (immediately improving on his 0/4 showing from behind the arc on Tuesday) and never trailed in the game. They led 17-5 at the first media timeout and pushed that to 33-13 at the midway point of the first half. "Close" for Alabama State meant cutting Iowa's lead to... 12. Iowa used a 17-6 run at the end of the half to open up their palindrome halftime lead, 63-36. The second half was uneventful, with both teams largely content to trade buckets; Iowa's lead stayed behind 25-30 points for most of the half. The only real drama in the second half was whether or not Iowa would manage to cover the 27.5-point spread; alas, they did not.
As we saw on Tuesday night, Iowa can win without strong three-point shooting, but it becomes very hard work -- and requires a lot of trips to the free throw line. When the three-pointers are falling like they were tonight, though, Iowa's offense looks damn near unstoppable. Iowa's shooting in the first half was absolutely unconscious: 66% from the field (and over 70% for most of the half), and a staggering 55% from 3-point range.
They made 11/20 three-point tries in the first 20 minutes; they were 5/23 for the entire game against NC Central. The shooting cooled off in the second half -- just 40% from the field and a ho-hum 38% from long range. But they kept hoisting shots and ended up converting 9 of those 24 3-point attempts. The 20 made three-pointers for the game? A new school record.
Speaking of three-point records... All hail Jordan Bohannon, now officially the all-time three-point king of the Big Ten. He made his record-setting 375th three-pointer early in the game and finished 4/8 from behind the arc for 12 points.
A catch-and-shoot trey from several feet behind the arc? Yeah, that's a fitting way for Bohannon to break the record. Bohannon has been a dynamite three-point shooter since day one at Iowa but it's still a little astounding to consider how many three-pointers he's made over the years. Congratulations to him on a truly fantastic accomplishment.
Bohannon had a nice game draining long bombs, but he actually didn't make the most three-pointers in the game for Iowa. That honor belonged to true freshman Payton Standfort, who played a career-high 21 minutes and scored a career-high 21 points. He shot 5/12 from deep for the game, though he was 5/8 in the first half, when his long range stroke looked excellent. He has good form on his shot and made a few threes with a hand in his face. It's going to be fun to watch him develop over the next few years, but it already looks like he's going to carve out a key role off the bench for this year's team.
The best player for Iowa tonight was, of course, Keegan Murray, who maintained his brilliant start to the season with another dominant performance: 26 points (10/16 shooting, 2/5 3FG), 6 rebounds, 4 assists, a block, and a steal. Oh, and this NASTY finish on an alley-oop.
The most notable thing about Murray's performance tonight? He made it looks utterly effortless -- and he did most of it in the first half. He had 20 points in the first 16 minutes and finished with 22 points in the first half. He is just playing absolutely dominant ball right now and it's wonderful to watch.
Shouts to Joe Toussaint as well; Toussaint had a rough outing against NC Central and spent most of the second half on the bench with Ahron Ulis favored over him. Toussaint bounced back tonight with one of his best games as a Hawkeye, finishing with 11 points on 4/6 shooting (including 2/2 from deep!) and a career-high 11 assists (plus three rebounds and two steals). Toussaint ran the show very effectively in this game, making shots when the opportunity was there and effectively distributing the ball when a teammate had a better look. There will be ups and downs for everyone this season, but it was reassuring to see Toussaint bounce back so well tonight.
In addition to Sandfort's monster game off the bench, Iowa also got a strong showing from Kris Murray, who returned from an illness-induced absence on Tuesday night to almost produce a double-double tonight. He had 17 points on 6/10 shooting (3/5 from deep), plus 8 rebounds and 2 assists. And while Keegs did his work in the first half, Kris picked up the slack in the second, scoring 15 of his 17 points and hauling in 7 of his 8 boards after the break. Kris has had some very fine showings for Iowa off the bench this year and he, like Sandfort, looks like a guy who will be a critical part of Iowa's rotation this season.
There's not much else to say about this game. We expected a rout for Iowa and, lo and behold, a rout is exactly what we got. It's nice when that happens, because it doesn't always happen -- we also expected a rout on Tuesday and instead we had to sweat the game until the final 6-8 minutes of the second half -- but there's not a whole lot to take away from games like this, either. Iowa beat a bad team convincingly. My complaint about this performance would be the same complaint that applies to a lot of Iowa games: the defense. It was better than it was on Tuesday, when NC Central absolutely eviscerated them in the first half and got a stunning number of open looks, but it still wasn't particularly great. Iowa seemed a bit slow to close out shooters and deny open looks. They did do a better job of cleaning up the glass, though, dominating ASU in total rebounds (44-27) and on the offensive glass (18-7). Anyway: on to the next one. '
NEXT: Iowa hosts Western Michigan (1-2, KenPom: 317) on Monday, November 22 (7:30 PM CT, BTN).