Iowa City – A seesaw contest between Iowa and the Northwest men’s basketball gave way to Hawkeye dominance. Northwestern maintained a 56-55 lead with 10:32 remaining. Hawkeye center Phillip Rebraca later noted that the effort had improved, but also noted a large motivating factor.
“I know what this night is for and who I’m playing for,” Lebraca said. “I had to step up another gear. I didn’t lose the game. That’s out of the question. I think we all understood that.”
Tuesday night was Chris Street Remembrance Night in honor of the 30th anniversary of the Hawkeye Legend’s death. The match, originally scheduled for January 18 but postponed to Tuesday, saw the Street Families present and honored early in the first half, as the Hawkeyes carried the sentiment to their second straight win.
Lebraca had a double-double with 20 points, 10 rebounds and four assists, while Peyton Sandfort matched that 20 with four rebounds and five assists. A balanced offense with five Hawkeyes scoring his double-digit numbers gave Iowa his 14th win of the season.
After the win, Chris Street’s parents Mike and Patty addressed the team.
“It’s very important to me, but it’s also very important to this program,” said coach Fran McCaffery. “It’s bigger than this team. No one has worn this jersey before. Everyone takes a lot of pride and there is no better example of what a teammate, athlete or competitor should be like than Chris Street, and his family’s connection to this program is very important to us. Everyone.”
Philippe Rebraca’s ascension continues to be a major storyline
It was an uncharacteristic night for star Chris Murray, his sixth-lowest total of 16 this season, but Tuesday night’s Rebraca made up for it. He said after the game that he wasn’t happy with his last game against Rutgers (7 points, 6 rebounds) and came out aggressive against Northwestern. We scored points and maintained that momentum throughout the game.
There’s no official Big 10 Most Valuable Player award, but it would improve sixth grade if there was one. Levraka has improved significantly from his 5 points and 5 rebounds per game last season, and this season he averaged 14 points and 9 rebounds per game. He also makes 56% of his shots from the field (up 3 points from last year) and 65% of his free throws (up 5 points) from the line.
Lebraca has been vocal throughout the offseason about his frustration with his play last season and his motivation for a breakout finale with the Hawkeyes. He’s played 22 games this season, and it’s hard to imagine where Iowa would have been if he hadn’t made a giant leap.
“Philip, you know it happens,” McCaffery said. Only
Peyton Sundfort Emerges as Player and Team Leader
Alongside Rebraca on Tuesday night was sophomore sniper Peyton Sandfort.
- His 3-pointer just before the halftime buzzer tied the game at 39-39.
- Another point (up to that point) at the 7:11 mark of the second half that gave Iowa its biggest lead, 65-59
- A 3-point-plus-foul at the 3:36 mark in the second half, combined with a subsequent technical foul on Northwestern coach Chris Collins, made for a rare 6-point play.
Sandfordt are trailing 19-35 (54%) after an early struggle in conference play (1-14 starts at 3). And his 3-point shot at that level added another dimension to the Iowa team. But there is another aspect of who he is on the Iowa team that deserves more attention.
Sandfort has been recognized as one of the coal leaders in Iowa’s victory over Indiana this month and could be a turning point for Iowa this season. His voice presence has been evident throughout this month, and it’s with a veteran-laden team.Fran McCaffery said the team has no ego and feels safe with everyone having a voice, His Sandfort promotion in that regard is still remarkable.
And the confidence to speak up during a slump has led to his breakout at this point in the year.
“I have always emphasized myself as a leader,” Sandfort said. “And I went through that rough stretch, but I talked to people, and that was really my leadership. He was taken.”
Home cooking is exactly what Iowa basketball needed
After two tough losses on the road, Iowa returned home and won two of their three games on the homestand. The Hawkeyes are currently 10-2 at home. Even more impressively, Tuesday night’s victory was his second win for Iowa in the past three days.
But with Iowa set to host rival Illinois on Saturday afternoon, it doesn’t get any easier. The Illini currently sits in second place in the crowded top half of the Big 10 standings. This is the only meeting of the season that focuses specifically on this game. In this year’s hotly contested conference, the Big Ten will be by the thinnest margins to determine his tournament seed and coveted double-bye.
“It was really nice to win[Rutgers and Northwestern]but I’m not happy,” Rebraca said. “We know Illinois is a really good team, and we feel like this win makes the game game even bigger, so we’re hungry.”
more:After an unsettling game, Iowa’s Patrick McCaffrey is back and focused solely on basketball