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Iowa aims to keep good times rolling against Maryland

Iowa forward Payton Sandfort, right, embraces teammate Kris Murray after a NCAA Big Ten Conference men's basketball game against Indiana, Thursday, Jan. 5, 2023, at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City, Iowa.

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Losing three straight Big Ten games didn’t bode well for the prospects of both Iowa and Maryland. But both teams have recovered to some extent heading into their game Sunday in Iowa City, Iowa.

While Iowa (11-6, 3-3) has reeled off three straight league wins, Maryland (11-5, 2-3) rebounded last Sunday with an 80-73 victory over then-No. 24 Ohio State.

The catalyst for Iowa’s turnaround has been Payton Sandfort. In the Hawkeyes’ first three Big Ten losses, the 6-foot-7 sophomore missed all 19 of his shots. Since then, Sandfort has used his quick release to make 19 of 34 shots (55.9 percent), including 50 percent from distance.

In a 93-84 overtime win Thursday at home over Michigan, Sandfort had a career-high 26 points and seven rebounds. Twelve of his points came in the game’s final 6:15 as Iowa overcame a seven-point deficit in the final two minutes of regulation.

The constant for Iowa has been Kris Murray, who has averaged 24.7 points and 8.3 rebounds during the winning streak. He’s taken over as the scoring leader in the Big Ten (21.4) entering the weekend.

“We got a lot of our swagger back that we didn’t have before,” Murray said. “Guys are playing well, feeding off each other. Chemistry’s great. This is a team that didn’t stop believing, even when we went on a little skid.”

In its league games, Maryland had gone 2-0 at home and 0-3 on the road, marching to the beat of Jahmir Young, who has had his two highest scoring games in the wins.

Young matched his career high with 30 points to go along with his game-high 11 rebounds in the Ohio State victory as all five Maryland starters scored in double figures.

Sunday’s game matches teams that like to push the tempo. Iowa will carry a depth edge as its bench produced 42 points in the Michigan win. The Hawkeyes won both meetings last year.

‘They really get up and down at home,” Maryland coach Kevin Willard said. “[Iowa coach Fran McCaffrey] always has played that way, so I think [it’s important] getting back, limiting their second shots and making them try to score against us in the half-court.”

– Field Level Media