By Michael Harley | @mhar3481
Sports Capital Journalism Program
INDIANAPOLIS – Coming off an emotional last-second win on Saturday in the semifinal round of the Big Ten Men’s Basketball Tournament, the Iowa Hawkeyes completed the task and defeated the Purdue Boilermakers, 75-66, on Sunday afternoon to win the championship. The title is the first for the Hawkeyes since 2006 and the third in program history.
The 2022 season has been a special year for the University of Iowa’s basketball programs, with both the men’s and women’s programs winning their conference tournaments. It is the second time in Iowa history, and only the fourth time ever, that a Big Ten university has won both conference tournaments in the same year. The Iowa teams of 2001 and 2022 joined the Ohio State men’s and women’s champions in 2010 and 2011.
Iowa (26-9) was led by sophomore forward Keegan Murray, who was voted the tournament’s Jim and Kitty Delany Most Outstanding Player Award. Murray recorded a double-double, finishing with 19 points and 11 rebounds. Indianapolis native Tony Perkins also had a strong performance in his hometown, recording 11 points and providing a stifling defensive performance, defending Purdue star sophomore guard Jaden Ivey during critical stretches.
Ivey finished the game with 20 points but committed five of Purdue’s 17 turnovers. “If we take care of the basketball and handle the glass the way we did, you win the basketball game and we didn’t do that,” Purdue head coach Matt Painter said. “With that being said, you’ve got to give Iowa credit, but you’re always working on those two areas.”
Just minutes after the championship game concluded, the NCAA Tournament bracket was revealed. Iowa earned a No. 5 seed in the Midwest region and will head to Buffalo to take on the No. 12 seed Richmond Spiders in the first round. Purdue earned a No. 3 seed in the East region and will head to Milwaukee for a matchup with No. 14 seed Yale.
Purdue (27-7) outrebounded Iowa 48 to 30, but the Boilermakers couldn’t overcome the turnover disparity, with the Hawkeyes only turning the ball over six times in the contest. Ivey, along with Purdue senior forward Trevion Williams, made the All-Tournament team for the Boilermakers. Murray and senior guard Jordan Bohannon were named to the All-Tournament team for the Hawkeyes. Indiana sophomore forward Trayce Jackson-Davis was also selected to the All-Tournament team.
The unsung hero of the second half for Iowa was freshman guard Payton Sandfort, who scored eight of his 10 points in the second half, including a pair of back-to-back 3-pointers in just a 31 second span that gave the Hawkeyes a 57-51 lead with 8:25 remaining. Sandfort made another critical layup with just 5:04 remaining that pushed the lead to 61-55 for the Hawkeyes.
“He stepped up in big moments,” Bohannon said of Sandfort.
Sandfort only averages five points per contest. His 10 points, in just 15 minutes on the floor, was a huge lift for the Hawkeyes as they withstood the comeback effort from the Boilermakers.
Iowa became the fourth team in the 24-year history of the event – and the third in the last five tournaments – to win four games in four days. Iowa coach Fran McCaffery addressed how much focus his team had to have in order to win four games in four days, especially in a conference as strong as the Big Ten. “They couldn’t have done it any better,” he said. “That’s the truth. We’re processing information rapidly when you’re playing back-to-back-to-back-to-back. I mean, that’s not easy to do because this league, as we all know, is incredibly challenging.”
If fatigue is going to be an issue for the Hawkeyes moving forward into the NCAA Tournament, the players are certainly not going to use that as an excuse. “I think for us, I feel like we’re just in better shape than a lot of teams,” Murray said after the trophy presentation. “For me, I’m not going to get tired. It’s a championship game, I’m not tired at all. I can go home and rest tomorrow.”
Bohannon also brushed off the notion that fatigue will be an issue for the team when they face Richmond on Thursday. “It’s been working for us and this three-day prep is — honestly, it’s a nice rest because we’ve had four games in four days, so I don’t think we’ll be too worried about it.”