Iowa outscored Nebraska 42-10 over the last 14 minutes of the first half to put the Huskers away early and hand them their ninth straight loss in Iowa City on Sunday, 98-75.
The Hawkeyes (17-7, 7-6 Big Ten) have now scored 98, 102, 96 and 93 in their last four meetings with the Huskers at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. Nebraska sandwiched its first Big Ten win with blowout losses on either side and fell to 1-13 in Big Ten play (and 7-18 overall).
Poor decisions, carelessness and blown scoring opportunities by Nebraska allowed the Hawkeyes to get out in the open floor and run away from the Huskers. Iowa dominated the points off turnovers and fas break points categories and scored 50 in the paint.
“We just didn’t play smart,” Coach Fred Hoiberg said during his post-game interview on the Huskers Radio Network. “It wasn’t an effort thing … We played out of control, and I tried everybody. I tried to get everybody in there and just could not find the right formula. So it just wasn’t an effort thing. It was just we did not play with poise and obviously did not play the right way.”
Transition defense, ball security and limiting opportunities for Iowa’s breakout star Keegan Murray were all areas of emphasis for the Huskers heading into Sunday, and the Huskers failed in all three.
Murray scored a career-high 37 points on 15-of-21 from the field (3-of-4 from 3) and 4-of-5 from the free-throw line, and he nearly outscored the Huskers by himself in the first half, doing much of his damage in the open court.
“He’s the most versatile player in our league and he scores it at three levels as we talked about in the pregame,” Hoiberg said. “Once he gets going, once he gets confident, he’s very tough to stop.”
Iowa shot 51.3% from the field (35.7% for 3) as the Hawkeyes outscored Nebraska 24 to nine in points off turnovers, 21 to eight in fast break points and 14 to seven in second-chance points.
Nebraska shot 43.5% including 28% from 3 with 15 turnovers (most of which were in the first half during Iowa’s game-deciding run). Derrick Walker led the Huskers with 14 points on 6-of-8 shooting while Eduardo Andre chipped in 10 points on 4-of-5 shooting off the bench. Bryce McGowens scored in double figures for the seventh straight game with 11, but he shot just 3-of-13 from the field.
After a couple of ties and lead changes early, Nebraska pulled ahead 15-11 with a 3 from Wilcher and a three-point play from Verge.
The lead was short-lived, however, as four straight Nebraska turnovers and then a couple of missed bunnies led to a personal 12-0 run by Keegan Murray. Freshman Payton Sandfort added a 3 as they lost him in transition to complete a 15-0 run and put the Hawkeyes ahead 26-15.
Alonzo Verge Jr. ended the Nebraska scoring drought with a runner, but the Iowa onslaught — and Nebraska’s offensive woes — continued as Iowa built the lead further with a 9-2 run. Iowa led 33-19 at the under-eight timeout and at that point, the Hawkeyes had scored 12 points off eight Nebraska turnovers and 14 fast break points.
Keegan Murray knocked down a 3 off another Nebraska turnover to pull even with Nebraska by himself, 21-21, and give the Huskers a 21-point lead. The run continued with two more buckets from Sandfort before Keisei Tominaga hit a pair of free throws.
Things didn’t get any better. Iowa took a 53-25 lead into halftime as the Huskers made just one shot from the field in the last six minutes and just two in the last nine-and-a-half.
“We had another start where we give ourselves a chance early by coming out and playing with right mentality, the right energy, and making the right play,” Hoiberg said. “And then when they went on a run, obviously it unraveled. When they started going downhill, we panicked, we got faster when we needed to slow down … I thought we’d learned our lesson on that of coming out, doing the things that make us successful. We just tried to play that hero ball where we tried to get it back at once.”
Keegan Murray surpassed his Big Ten-leading season-average by halftime with 24 points on 9-of-14 from the field (2-of-3 from 3) and 4-of-5 from the foul line. Sandfort added 10 points off the bench on 4-of-5 shooting (2-of-3 from deep).
Iowa scored 16 fast break points and turned 12 Nebraska turnovers into 19 points on the other end. Of Murray’s 24, 13 came in transition (including nine off turnovers). Iowa scored 24 points in the paint.
Nobody had more than five points for Nebraska as the Huskers shot 31% from the field. The Huskers were 6-of-12 (2-of-5 from 3) with one free throw and just one turnover during that 15-11 start. The rest of the half, they shot 3-of-17 (0-of-9 from 3) and 4-of-5 from the stripe with 10 turnovers.
The Huskers started scoring at a higher clip in the second half, but they didn’t have any more luck slowing down the Hawkeyes. Iowa built the lead as high as 36 six minutes into the half.
An alley-oop from Verge to Bryce McGowens for his first field goal of the game got the Huskers going a bit. Patrick McCaffery scored in the lane on the next possession to push the lead back to 36, but the Huskers responded with a 20-3 run including scores from five different Huskers.
That run, capped by back-to-back 3s from Kobe Webster, cut the deficit to 19 with 8:31 to play, but that’s as close as the Huskers got. Iowa pushed the lead back to 28 with a 7-0 run before the under-four timeout and both teams turned to their benches to finish the game.
Walk-on Jackson Cronin scored a couple of buckets in the last two minutes including his first career 3-pointer.
The Huskers shot 54.5% from the field in the second half including 5-of-11 from 3 and recorded assists on 12 of their 18 buckets, but Iowa shot 54.3% and matched Nebraska’s 3-point shooting.
“Second half, I thought we moved it, we executed, we ran the offense the right way,” Hoiberg said. “But again, when you have stretches like we continue to have where you dig yourself a huge hole like that, it’s impossible in this league to climb out of it.”
The Huskers won’t take the floor again until Friday as Maryland visits Lincoln for the first meeting of the season between the two teams.
Jacob is in his third year with Hail Varsity covering Husker athletics. He has also written extensively for SB Nation’s Bright Side of the Sun and The Creightonian. His love of basketball can best be described as an obsession and if you need to find him, he’s probably in a gym somewhere watching, coaching or playing hoops.