Iowa reserve Payton Sandfort missed each of his seven field-goal attempts Dec. 11 during the Hawkeyes’ overtime loss to Wisconsin in their Big Ten opener.
Sandfort rediscovered his stroke Saturday with a career-high 24 points in a rout of Southeast Missouri State, and will aim to keep rolling Wednesday when Iowa welcomes Eastern Illinois to Iowa City, Iowa.
Sandfort scored 17 points over a dazzling 4:17 stretch in the first half, securing his first double-digit scoring effort in more than a month before the break.
“The most important thing was I was just having fun again,” Sandfort said. “I’ve made this too much and have just been overthinking everything. So just going out there and being me — having fun with my teammates, winning games — that was fun.”
Iowa (8-3) has won six of seven at home this season, and with leading scorer Kris Murray (19.4 points per game) sidelined by a foot injury, performances like the one Sandfort delivered Saturday have helped the team maintain confidence.
Filip Rebraca was also an inside force, leading Iowa with 30 points on 12-for-13 shooting. He added nine rebounds and six assists.
Wednesday marks the final nonconference game for Eastern Illinois (3-9) before its Ohio Valley Conference opener against Lindenwood on Dec. 29.
Panthers coach Marty Simmons said this month the team has “panicked” at times and forced shots early in the shot clock, challenging players to improve on that facet and “use your offense as part of your defense.”
The Panthers were plenty efficient on Saturday afternoon, relying on 61.9-percent shooting in the second half to defeat host IUPUI 70-59. Eastern Illinois trailed by a basket at halftime before taking off, sparked by a career-high 27 points from Yaakema Rose Jr.
A transfer from NCAA Division II Missouri-St. Louis, Rose is coming off recognition as OVC Player and Newcomer of the Week. He surpassed 1,000 career points in the IUPUI game.
Iowa leads the all-time series 5-0. The Hawkeyes and Panthers are meeting for the first time since Dec. 1, 2007, when host Iowa won 57-45.
–Field Level Media