Tuesday evening was a historic night in program history as the Hawkeyes capped off Jersey Retirement Night with a dominating 86-60 win over the Michigan State Spartans. Recognition of Hawkeye greats Roy Marble, Chuck Darling, and Murray Wier set the scene, as they officially had their jerseys hung in the Carver-Hawkeye Arena rafters shortly before tipoff. Michigan State won the tip and jumped out to a quick 2-0 lead off of a hookshot from leading rebounder, Marcus Bingham Jr. This would end up being Michigan State’s only lead of the game as Iowa’s offense came out hot, led by none other than Keegan Murray. Keegan led all scorers with 28 points on 10-12 shooting. Jordan Bohannon and Kris Murray were the two other Hawkeyes that got in double figures, both with 11 points. Iowa hit twelve three-pointers, seven of which came in the first half. This is an impressive feat considering Michigan State is the No. 1 ranked three-point defense in the country.
The 2021 National Player of the Year, Iowa legend, and current Detroit Piston, Luka Garza, had his moment of celebration during halftime in front of his first crowd in Carver since before COVID, as #55 was retired forever. Watch the unveiling of #55 here.
Iowa continued the festivities through their performance in the second half. Keegan had a monster and-1, and gave a rare nod of emotion towards Garza sitting court-side. His twin Kris Murray’s third straight three-pointer in a span of 2:12 lifted the roof off Carver-Hawkeye.
One of Tom Izzo’s first comments when he entered the postgame conference was a compliment for the packed Carver crowd, saying how “It felt like an ambush. [The] place was hopping.” With many in the public voicing their concerns about what the University needs to do to make Carver a better home environment, it is encouraging that Hawkeye fans showed up on Tuesday when the team needed it most. Izzo lauded Keegan Murray and Fran’s work with this team after losing players like Garza, Wieskamp, and Nunge, saying “he’s as good as any player [he’s] seen in a while… you start talking about the National Player and Coach of the Year–I think it might reside in Iowa City.” This is a huge endorsement from a veteran coach who has seen and coached talents such as Draymond Green and Denzel Valentine. Izzo also emphasized how impressed he was with players such as Joe Toussaint, Tony Perkins, Ahron Uhlis, etc. as sub-guards, giving them the title of “MVPs of the team.” Even though they are not the highest scoring players on the court, their intensity and ability to pass, rebound, get steals, etc. are vital to the teams success.
As much as Iowa’s offense shined, this was one of the most gritty defensive games of the season. Iowa forced 12 turnovers and held Michigan State’s starting five to 19 total points. When the Murray twins were asked what they felt has changed about the teams demeanor and intensity the past few games, Keegan said they have been “better at executing in the first half,” and have a higher “commitment to rebounding.” The last half of the season has not been kind to Iowa schedule-wise, but this team is playing their best basketball at the right time. If the Hawkeyes continue this full 40 minute effort on both sides of the ball, they are destined to make a deep run in March. ESPN bracketologist, Joe Lunardi, currently rates Iowa as a seven-seed in the NCAA tournament, while others rate the Hawks anywhere from a five to a ten-seed. Iowa travels to Nebraska on Friday in hopes of a season sweep over the Huskers.