By JOHN BOHNENKAMP
Payton Sandfort didn’t want to break any fire codes.
But when Sandfort, the Iowa sophomore guard, and Gabbie Marshall, a guard on Iowa’s women’s team, were going through similar shooting slumps, they came up with an idea on how to get out the struggles.
Sandfort had reached out to Marshall, knowing she was having a similar issue.
“Every time she missed, I was like, ‘Dang, I kind of feel your pain,’” he said Wednesday, confirming what she said on Tuesday about their commiseration. “ I reached out to her and we talked about it. We talked about coming together and burning something.”
For the record, no, there was no slump-busting arson.
“We didn’t,” Sandfort said, smiling. We were going to do it in here (at Carver-Hawkeye Arena), but they said there was some fire problem. Doesn’t make much sense.”
It was probably a good idea.
That said, Sandfort may have found a way out of his slump before becoming the Hawkeyes’ torch master.
Sandfort was 6-of-8 from the field, 4-of-5 in 3-pointers, on his way to a 22-point game in Iowa’s win at Rutgers on Sunday.
Sandfort was coming off a three-game stretch in which he made just 4-of-21 shots, including just 1-of-9 3-pointers. He also had an earlier six-game stretch this season in which he made just 2-of-21 3-pointers.
“It was a weird stretch, something I’d never gone through before,” Sandfort said. “I’m thankful for it — it opened up my eyes to some things that kind of need some work. I’m really hard on myself, so it was nice to have people tell me, ‘It’s going to be OK.’
“It just came down to me connecting with who I am, connecting with God, connecting with what makes me who I am.”
Sandfort leaned heavily on his family.
“I was talking to my parents on the phone every night, talking to my brother,” he said. “They told me they still loved me, which was nice to hear. It was just really good. They were college athletes, they’ve been through it. They had all the right words. They were encouraging me. They knew it was going to break.”
And Sandfort appreciated the approach of Iowa coach Fran McCaffery, who didn’t want him to let up.
“It’s something special, the confidence he gives his players,” Sandfort said. “I mean, we’ve had meetings, and he’d be like, ‘You know, there’s probably some people who would be like you shouldn’t take that. I’d probably take you out if you didn’t shoot it.’ So I was like, ‘Well, that’s good to hear.’
Sandfort was willing to listen to any advice, and try anything. It’s work that he thinks has paid off.
“I was pressing pretty bad, feeling like every shot had to go in, like the weight of the world was on my shoulders,” he said “It was more of a mental battle than mechanical.
“I was listening to a lot of different people. But most of the battle was just personal. A lot of internal thoughts that were weighing on my shoulders. Getting rid of those is an ongoing battle. But I’m starting to win it.”
Photo: Iowa’s Payton Sandfort heads down court after making a 3-pointer in last Sunday’s game against Rutgers. (Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire)