THE MONDAY TIPOFF: Sandfort Playing Valuable Role Off Iowa’s Bench

By John Bohnenkamp

Iowa’s Payton Sandfort has had a typical freshman season — some good games, some not-so-good.

But Sandfort has become a valuable part of the Hawkeyes’ reserve group this season.

The 6-foot-7 forward from Waukee is coming off back-to-back double-digit scoring games heading into Monday’s Big Ten home game with Maryland. He has 10 points in a win over Southeastern Louisiana, then played a key role in Iowa’s first-half run in last Wednesday’s 92-71 win over Western Illinois.

Sandfort, who finished the game with 13 points on 5-of-7 shooting, was especially crucial in a 99-second stretch of the first half. Sandfort had two 3-pointers and a dunk as Iowa turned a 25-19 lead into a 33-21 margin.

“He’s a really confident player,” forward Keegan Murray said after the game. “When he’s in the game, you want to give him the ball. As a shooter, when your first shot goes in, you gain confidence. You could see that. He gained more confidence as the game went on, hit some big shots and got us on a run. He was big for our game today.”

Sandfort’s emergence this season is something coach Fran McCaffery appreciates.

“He’s in a really good place,” McCaffery said. “He’s got a multitude of things he does positively on the floor.

“Everybody knows he can shoot, but he can put it on the deck. He passes it well, he moves well without the ball, he goes to the glass. He really works hard defensively. He’s in great condition so he moves well at both ends.”

Sandfort had a season-high five rebounds against Western Illinois.

“He’s a very valuable guy,” McCaffery said. “Not a lot of guys who are good shooters are good rebounders, but he is.”

Sandfort averages 6.7 points and 1.7 rebounds. But there have been those ups and downs that come with a first-year player.

Sandfort had a season-high 21 points against Alabama State on November 18, and followed that with a 19-point game against Western Michigan four days later. But he only had 10 points in a six-game stretch that followed before putting together his current run.

“I think he’s going to keep getting better,” McCaffery said.

MASSNER’S BIG NIGHT

It’s not often that an opposing player hears cheers in a road venue, but Western Illinois guard Trenton Massner heard the applause during his introduction before Wednesday’s game at Iowa.

Massner grew up in Wapello, which is just 50 miles away from Iowa City.

“It was crazy,” Massner said of the opportunity to play at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. “I think in the first half, that’s why I kind of came out to a slow start. I was missing (shots) I would normally make, but it was just the jitters.”

Massner led the Leathernecks with 20 points, going 9-of-17 from the field.

“I will always remember this,” he said. “It’s a special game. I wish we could have come out on top.”

Massner said he had received plenty of ticket requests for the game.

“I gave out 15, but I got a lot more requests than that,” Massner said. “A lot of people just bought tickets, so I was thankful for that.”

CLARK REACHES 1,000

Iowa sophomore guard Caitlin Clark reached the 1,000-point mark for her career in a historic way on Sunday.

Clark, who needed just three points to reach the milestone, scored a career-high 44 points in the 93-56 win over Evansville. Clark set a Carver-Hawkeye Arena scoring record, breaking the mark of 42 set by Amy Herrig in 1999. Clark had 18 field goals, also an Arena record.

Clark reached the 1,000-point mark in 40 games, the fastest in Big Ten history. She is only the second player in NCAA history to reach the mark in 40 games or less in the last 25 years — Delaware’s Elena Delle Donne did it in 38 games from 2011-12.

“I think it speaks to the offense we run,” Clark said after the game. “We’re a team that likes to score the basketball. But any time you reach a thousand, it’s a big accomplishment.”

Photo: Iowa’s Payton Sandfort is coming off back-to-back double-digit scoring games. (Brian Ray/hawkeyesports.com)

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