NCAA Basketball

No. 25 Iowa, Nebraska trending in opposite directions

In the Top 25 for the first time all season and coming off arguably its most impressive performance to date, No. 25 Iowa will try to keep the momentum going when it visits Nebraska in a Big Ten Conference game on Friday night in Lincoln, Neb.

The Hawkeyes (19-8, 9-7 Big Ten) can secure a fourth consecutive 20-win season under coach Fran McCaffrey if they avoid a letdown against the last-place Cornhuskers (7-20, 1-15).

Iowa heads into this one having blown out Michigan State at home on Tuesday, an 86-60 victory that saw it hit 12 3-pointers, win the rebounding battle and hold the Spartans to 35.2 percent shooting. In winning five of six, the Hawkeyes have only allowed one team to shoot 50 percent, that being Michigan in a home loss on Feb. 17.

"We've been pretty good," McCaffrey said. "Our consistency on offense pushing the ball, moving the ball, sharing the ball was important, and then our consistency defensively challenging on the glass. If you outrebound whoever you play, you have a pretty good chance to win."

Iowa has won the rebounding battle in four of the last five games, again the exception coming in the Michigan loss.

Nebraska won the boards for only the fourth time all season in its last game, but like most other contests, it was a sizable loss. The Cornhuskers' 77-65 setback at Northwestern on Tuesday made it three straight losses, 13 of their last 14 and 18 of their last 20.

Nebraska athletic director Trev Alberts announced Thursday night that third-year coach Fred Hoiberg will be retained for another season on a restructured contract. Hoiberg, who owns a 6-49 record in Big Ten play, was considered to be on the hot seat, as the Huskers are already locked into one of the three lowest seeds for next month's Big Ten Tournament.

"Iowa's playing great right now -- as good as any team in our league right now," Hoiberg said. "It's about coming home and giving our fans one last game to cheer about and feel good about."

Iowa is 4-6 on the road this season but has claimed three of its last five outside of Iowa City. Sophomore forward Keegan Murray, who leads the Big Ten in scoring and is fourth nationally at 23.5 points per game, is shooting 51.6 percent on the road compared to 58.6 percent everywhere else, but it hasn't mattered where the games have been in February.

Murray is averaging 23.7 points per game this month (including 37 against Nebraska at home on Feb. 13) on 60.2 percent shooting, making 48 percent of his threes to up his season average to 37 percent.

Nebraska wing Bryce McGowens, who is coming off his second career double-double, is the school's freshman single-season scoring leader with 452 points. Using his scoring average of 16.7 per game, McGowens is on pace to be the first freshman from the Big Ten to top 500 points in a season since Indiana's Romeo Langford and Michigan's Ignas Brazdeikis did it in 2018-19.

--Field Level Media

Updated February 24, 2022

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