Thu, 19 May 2022

Rutgers, Iowa both shooting to soar in Big Ten

Field Level Media
19 Jan 2022, 06:19 GMT+10

With victories in six of its past seven games, Iowa has hit a rhythm as it enters Wednesday's Big Ten game against Rutgers in Piscataway, N.J.

The Hawkeyes (13-4, 3-3 Big Ten) were the first team in the "others receiving votes" column of the latest Associated Press Top 25 poll, lurking just behind UConn for the No. 25 spot. That can be chalked up to the way it ground out conference wins over Maryland, Indiana and Minnesota.

In Sunday's 81-71 win at Minnesota, the Hawkeyes led by 16 at intermission before the Golden Gophers charged back and cut the deficit to 74-71 with 90 seconds left. Keegan Murray, the nation's leading scorer at 23.9 points per game, drained a 3-pointer with 59 seconds left to help Iowa rattle off the game's final seven points.

"We have confidence in (Murray) as a staff and his teammates have confidence in him," Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said. "To him, it's just no big deal, it's how he plays. He doesn't hunt shots. We did run some stuff for him, but he still gets 25 points in a variety of different ways."

Rutgers (10-6, 4-2) found its sorely needed first road win of the season Saturday at Maryland. Though the Terrapins jumped out to a 38-27 halftime lead, the Scarlet Knights cut their turnovers and clamped down on defense for a major swing in the second half, leading to a 70-59 win.

Ron Harper Jr. scored 20 of his career-best 31 points in the second half on 5-of-6 shooting.

Both Rutgers and Iowa are seeking return trips to the NCAA Tournament, though the Scarlet Knights have more work to do to force their way into that conversation after a 3-3 start with losses to DePaul, Lafayette and UMass.

Since then, they've beaten then-No. 1 Purdue and Michigan on its home floor.

"People keep doubting this group. It's good," Rutgers coach Steve Pikiell said. "We'll just keep grinding. These guys are good, they're tough and they want to win. And it's a tough league to win in."

McCaffery, in his 12th year coaching the Hawkeyes, would agree with that last sentiment.

"This league is just brutal," he said. "There is nobody that you can take lightly in any way. If we come with less than our best, we're going to lose against anybody in this league. ... Rutgers had a great road win at Maryland. We know what their roster looks like. They have really good personnel and a veteran group."

--Field Level Media

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