Iowa assistant Kirk Speraw will retire after 43-year career

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IOWA CITY, Iowa – Iowa assistant Kirk Speraw will retire on June 30 after 43 years coaching college basketball, head coach Fran McCaffery announced Wednesday.

Speraw began his career as a graduate assistant under Lute Olson on Iowa’s 1980 Final Four team and ended it as a 12-year assistant under McCaffery.

“Kirk has been the ultimate professional and an important part of our basketball program since I arrived in Iowa City,” McCaffery said. “Kirk was well-respected by the players and was one of the key components of rebuilding the program. His knowledge of the game and relationships that he developed with the players, families and fans will be greatly missed.”

The Sioux City, Iowa, native helped guide the Hawkeyes to 20 or more wins eight of the last 10 years. Last season Iowa won four games in four days to capture the Big Ten Tournament title.

“I was fortunate that coach Olson gave me my start in coaching here at the University of Iowa and I am grateful that coach McCaffery and Gary Barta brought me back to my alma mater to finish my coaching career with a Big Ten championship,” Speraw said.

Speraw, 65, worked primarily with perimeter players. Peter Jok in 2017 became Iowa’s fifth Big Ten scoring champion, Joe Wieskamp in 2020 was the only Division I player with at least 400 points, 200 rebounds, 70 3-pointers and 25 steals, and Jordan Bohannon last season became the program’s career leader in assists and 3-pointers.

Speraw was head coach at Central Florida from 1994-2010 and at Pensacola (Florida) Junior College from 1988-90. He also made assistant coaching stops at Denver, Florida Southern and Florida.

Speraw played for Iowa from 1976-79, lettering on the Big Ten regular-season championship team as a senior.

Jensen leads Creighton past Iowa in NCAA second round

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IOWA CITY, Iowa — Lauren Jensen found a new place last spring when she transferred from Iowa to Creighton.

She came back into her former home and knocked her ex-teammates out of the women’s NCAA tournament.

Jensen scored 19 points, including the go-ahead 3-pointer with 12 seconds left that lifted No. 10 seed Creighton over Caitlin Clark and second-seeded Iowa 64-62 in a Greensboro Region second-round game.

Iowa (24-8), which shared the Big Ten regular-season title and won the conference tournament, had two chances to tie the game in the closing three seconds. Monika Czinano missed a layup with three seconds left, then Kate Martin missed a putback as time ran out.

Jensen scored nine of the Bluejays’ last 10 points.

“I’ve gotten the question a lot,” Creighton coach Jim Flanery said. “‘How is Lauren going to feel today, what’s Lauren going to play like, da da da da?’ Those last few minutes had to be magical and special, and we’re super proud of her and we’re super proud that she’s part of our program.”

“Right away from summer workouts, this team welcomed me with open arms and made me feel at home and a part of the team, and I’m just so grateful for that,” Jensen said. “To be able to do that with them here today is just so great.”

Jensen had a layup with 1:26 left to cut Iowa’s lead to 62-60, then her 3-pointer gave the Bluejays a lead.

“I just wanted to go in and play my game and didn’t know what to expect with a sold out crowd,” she said. “Play my game and play with my teammates and hopefully come out with the win, which we did.”

“She goes over there and she comes back and beats us on our home court, and I want to congratulate her because she’s a great kid,” Iowa coach Lisa Bluder said. “She is a really, really good kid. I’m happy for her. I wish it wasn’t in this situation, but I am happy for her that she’s found a really good home and is really having a lot of success.”

After Clark missed a layup Emma Ronziek made the second of two free throws for the final margin.

Ronziek and Payton Brotzki had 13 points for the Bluejays (22-9), who advance to their first Sweet 16. They were the seventh double-digit seed to win in the women’s NCAA Tournament so far, matching the record set in 1998.

“This is for everyone who has played at Creighton and put on a uniform in the past,” Flanery said. “So happy for everyone who has been here. It means a lot. we have so much respect for Iowa and their program. The familiarity led to a lower scoring game than I anticipated. To make a Sweet 16 is really special.”

Czinano led Iowa with 27 points. Clark, who came into the game as the nation’s leading scorer at 27.4 points per game, finished with 15. Clark had a rough game, shooting just 4-for-19 from the field, including missing all eight shots in the second half.

“I missed some bunnies I usually make,” Clark said. “But that’s how basketball goes.”

Creighton led by as much as 12 points in the first half before a six-point Iowa run in the final two minutes cut the Bluejays’ lead to 38-32 at halftime. The Hawkeyes struggled offensively outside of Clark and Czinano, who had Iowa’s first 26 points of the game.

Iowa, which ranked second in the nation in scoring at 84.9 points per game, was held to a season-low in points.

ANOTHER IOWA CONNECTION

Creighton guard Rachel Saunders is an Iowa City native. Her father, Mike, played football at Iowa.

SELLOUT CROWD

Both sessions were sellouts, with an attendance of 14,382. The Iowa site had the best attendance of the 16 sites for the first round. Arizona was second with 9,573.

“To get that many people into a gym to watch women’s sports, I think that’s huge,” Czinano said.

“I apologize to our fans that they couldn’t celebrate a victory with us today,” Bluder said.

BIG PICTURE

Creighton: Flanery said on Saturday that playing in this game in front of a national television audience would be a chance to showcase his program, and the Bluejays took advantage of the spotlight to reach the regional semifinals.

Iowa: The Hawkeyes had the homecourt advantage, but struggled to get a lead against Creighton until late. The program had made back-to-back appearances in the second weekend of the tournament.

Richmond ousts 5th-seeded Iowa with 67-63 1st-round win

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BUFFALO, N.Y. — Jacob Gilyard had an inkling a week ago – well before Richmond had even qualified for the NCAA Tournament – that the Spiders were capable of a first-round upset.

“Probably last Thursday,” the fifth-year guard said, referring to the day Richmond began a four-win run to the Atlantic 10 Tournament title. “We’re a fairly confident group and I think last weekend showed that.”

Spiders coach Chris Mooney had a feeling long before then, he said in the wake of the 12th-seeded Spiders’ 67-63 first-round win over Big Ten champion Iowa on Thursday.

Mooney reflected on how Richmond’s chances to qualify for the 2020 tournament with a 24-7 record were canceled because of the pandemic. Richmond went 14-9 last season, and Mooney credited the commitment six of his seniors showed when they chose to return for their extra year of COVID-19 eligibility.

“I told them it wasn’t going to be all perfect, like their careers haven’t been perfect. And I said, `The reason you came back was to handle adversity,”‘ Mooney said. “And these guys have done that in a great way all season.”

Gilyard scored 24 points, Tyler Burton added 18 points and 11 rebounds, and the Spiders improved their NCAA tourney record against fifth-seeded teams to 4-0. The Spiders (24-12) will face the Midwest Region’s No. 4 seed, Providence, which defeated South Dakota State.

Keegan Murray scored 21 points and Patrick McCaffery added 18 for the Hawkeyes (26-10), who were unable to carry over the momentum of winning four times in four days at the Big Ten tournament last weekend. Iowa set conference tournament records with 123 field goals and 351 points, finishing with a 75-66 win over Purdue on Sunday.

The Hawkeyes’ fourth-best offense nationally (83.8 points per game) was held to its third-lowest total of the year and worst production since a 48-46 loss at Rutgers on Jan. 19.

“This game is probably the worst game we played all year, and I don’t think it’s close so it’s definitely not a good feeling in our stomachs right now,” Connor McCaffery said.

Sixth-year Iowa guard Jordon Bohannon was unable to contain his emotions after playing his NCAA-record 179th and final game.

“Just thanks for giving me a chance. It’s been some of the best years of my life,” Bohannon said, his voice cracking on several occasions. “I faced a lot of adversity coming back, you know, a couple of hip surgeries, dealt with a lot of injuries. And I can honestly say this last year, I put my heart and soul into this team, and hopefully I left this jersey in a better place than where I found it.”

The Spiders are making their 10th tournament appearance and first since 2011, when they reached the Sweet 16 as – you guessed it – the No. 12 seed before losing to Kansas.

Led by sixth-year senior Grant Golden, Richmond’s 20-player roster is made up of five fifth-year graduate seniors – Gilyard is one of them – and three fourth-year seniors. That experience showed down the stretch, when Gilyard sealed the win by hitting all four of his free-throw attempts in the final 16 seconds.

The teams traded the lead seven times. Golden laid in an inbounds pass from Gilyard to put Richmond ahead 40-39 with 14:33 remaining, and the Spiders led the rest of the way. It was Golden’s first basket after missing his first nine attempts.

NO CALL?

Iowa took issue with the lack of a call when Richmond’s Matt Grace appeared to foul Kris Murray on a 3-point attempt with about a minute remaining and the Spiders up 60-57. Grace was credited with a block on the play, but replays showed he hit Murray’s elbow. Nathan Cayo then completed a three-point play at the other end.

CHILLY FIRST HALF

Iowa went 1 of 13 from 3-point range in a cold-shooting first half in which the teams combined to go 3 of 22; the Hawks finished 6 of 29 from beyond the arc. The first half featured six lead changes with neither team leading by more than four.

BIG PICTURE

Iowa has had some rough experiences in the NCAA Tournament. The Hawkeyes, the fourth team to win four games in four days at the Big Ten tourney, were the No. 2 seed last year and had national player of the year Luka Garza but were eliminated by Oregon in the second round.

Richmond improved its tournament record to 9-9, with all the wins coming when the Spiders were seeded 12th or lower. In 1991, Richmond became the tournament’s first 15-seed to defeat a No. 2 seed with a 73-69 win over Syracuse.

UP NEXT

Richmond faces Providence on Saturday.

Big Ten lands three players on AP All-America first team

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Keegan Murray has given Iowa a first-team Associated Press All-American for the third straight year, and Kofi Cockburn has made it two in a row for Illinois – not bad for a couple programs that haven’t had a whole lot of them.

The Fighting Illini never had a first-team pick until Ayo Dosunmu made it last season when Cockburn was voted to the second team. And the Hawkeyes had not had a first-team selection since the 1952 season until Luka Garza, last year’s AP player of the year, made his second consecutive appearance in the five-man team.

Throw in Wisconsin’s Johnny Davis and the Big Ten was well represented Tuesday on the AP’s first team, which also included Kentucky big man Oscar Tshiebwe – this year’s player of the year favorite – and Kansas guard Ochai Agbaji.

“I’ve had to learn from a lot of guys last year just what it takes to be great at this level,” said Murray, a sophomore guard from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, who is fourth nationally in scoring at 23.6 points per game heading into the NCAA Tournament.

“I mean, it’s kind of like everything just got put together for me,” Murray added, “just all the hard work that we put in.”

The fifth-seeded Hawkeyes, who won the Big Ten Tournament title on Sunday, will open their NCAA tourney on Thursday against Richmond.

“We struggled earlier on this year a little bit and now we’re doing really well,” Murray said, “and it’s just a great feeling.”

All the first-team picks have their teams positioned to make a postseason run.

Cockburn, the bruising forward from Kingston, Jamaica, and the fourth-seeded Fighting Illini play Chattanooga on Friday, the same day Davis and the third-seeded Badgers open against Colgate. Tshiebwe has Kentucky seeded second going into Thursday’s game against Saint Peter’s. Agbaji and the top-seeded Jayhawks open against one of the play-in teams.

Davis is the Badgers’ third first-team All-American, joining Alando Tucker in 2007 and Frank Kaminsky in 2015, while Tshiebwe is the first for Kentucky since Tyler Ulis in 2016. Agbaji gives the Jayhawks a first-team pick for the third time in six years after Frank Mason in 2017 and Devonte Graham in 2018.

Just like Murray with the Hawkeyes, Agbaji already has some experience cutting down nets this season.

The Big 12 player of the year led Kansas past Texas Tech in the conference title game, adding tournament MVP honors to a growing collection of hardware that Agbaji has earned during his senior season.

“It’s great to see him do all these things. He’s accomplishing pretty much every goal he set out to accomplish,” Jayhawks teammate Christian Braun said, “and it’s awesome to watch him every day, you know, work hard and practice hard and do all these things, and then accomplish everything he set out to accomplish.”

SECOND TEAM

Drew Timme of Gonzaga led the AP second team for the second straight year and was joined by freshman teammate Chet Holmgren. Jaden Ivey of Purdue gave the Big Ten another All-American, while likely No. 1 draft pick Jabari Smith of Auburn and Benedict Mathurin of Arizona rounded out the second team.

The Bulldogs, who are the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament for the second straight season, also had two second-team picks last year in Timme and Jalen Suggs. Another teammate, Corey Kispert, was a first-teamer last year.

THIRD TEAM

Paolo Banchero of Duke was the only player from the ACC to be chosen for one of the first three teams, while the Blue Devils were the only team from the vaunted basketball conference to land in the final Top 25 poll this season. Banchero also will go down as the final All-American in a long list to have played for retiring Blue Devils coach Mike Krzyzewski.

Banchero was joined on the third team by Collin Gillespie of Villanova and E.J. Liddell of Ohio State, both of whom were honorable mention picks last season, and Walker Kessler of Auburn. James Akinjo of Baylor and JD Notae of Arkansas tied for the last spot on the third team, giving it six members rather than five.

HONORABLE MENTION

David Roddy of Colorado State was the top vote getter among the honorable mention selections. Others to receive the honor include Armando Bacot of North Carolina; Johnny Juzang of UCLA; Alondes Williams of Wake Forest; Tari Eason of LSU; Zach Edey of Purdue; two-time pick Max Abmas of Oral Roberts; and Ron Harper Jr. of Rutgers.

Bueckers, Clark among returning stars in women’s NCAA field

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COLUMBIA, S.C. – Paige Bueckers and Caitlin Clark are back, this time as talented sophomores in the women’s basketball NCAA Tournament.

The duo commanded center stage and the nation’s attention last year in one of the most anticipated women’s Sweet 16 showdowns between top freshmen Bueckers and her UConn squad and Clark with Iowa.

This time, Bueckers has played modest minutes in her four games since returning from knee surgery for an injury she suffered in early December.

Clark has picked up where she left off last year, winning the Big Ten Conference player of year award and leading the country in scoring at 27.1 points a game. Clark has have five triple-doubles this season and a career-high 46 points against Michigan.

Bueckers said her challenge is “accepting what I’m going to be and what I am for the rest of the season and just trying to be the best version of myself that I can be.”

It was Bueckers and UConn outplaying Iowa last March in San Antonio, with the Huskies winning 92-72. Bueckers had 18 points, Clark had 21.

But they’re just two of several players to watch in this year’s tournament.

NaLyssa Smith led Baylor to the Big 12 Conference regular-season title in the first year after national championship coach Kim Mulkey left for LSU. Smith, who averaged 23.1 points, was the first to win back-to-back Big 12 player of the year honors since former Bear Brittney Griner did it three straight years from 2011-13.

Haley Jones of Stanford was the Final Four’s most outstanding player last year as the Cardinal beat Arizona for the championship in a Pac-12 showdown. She averaged 12.7 points and 7.9 rebounds this year – second in the Pac 12 – and was named the conference player of the year. Stanford is trying to become the first women’s team with consecutive titles since UConn’s run of four straight ended in 2016.

South Carolina’s Aliyah Boston, the Southeastern Conference player of the year, enters the NCAA Tournament with 24 straight games with double-figure points and rebounds.

Louisville’s Emily Engstler, a 6-foot-1 transfer from Syracuse, led the Atlantic Coast Conference with 2.5 steals a game, along with 11.5 points and a team-leading 9.1 boards per game.

Some other things to know about this year’s women’s tournament:

LEVELING THE FIELD

The NCAA took several steps to make the men’s and women’s tournaments more equal this year.

Oregon’s Sedona Prince posted a video last year about the lack of amenities – training equipment, food, tournament gifts – that the women had in San Antonio compared to the men in Indianapolis.

The NCAA commissioned a study, released last summer, that found gross inequalities between the tournaments. This year, the women’s field will have 68 teams, just like the men, and the term “March Madness” will branded on the court instead of just “Women’s Basketball” as in the past.

The NCAA has said men’s and women’s teams also will have equitable hotel rooms and food.

INAUGURAL FIRST FOUR

Howard, Incarnate Word, Missouri State, Florida State, Longwood, Mount St. Mary’s, Dayton and DePaul will enter the record books as the teams in the inaugural women’s First Four games.

Howard and Incarnate Word – making their first-ever NCAA Tournament appearances – will play, with the winner facing No. 1 overall seed South Carolina in Columbia. Also in the Greensboro Region, Dayton and DePaul will play for the chance to take on sixth-seeded Georgia.

In the Spokane Region, Missouri State and Florida State will meet to see who takes on sixth-seeded Ohio State. And in the Bridgeport Region, Longwood faces Mount St. Mary’s with the advancing to take on top-seeded North Carolina State.

DOUBLE DIP

There are 24 schools that have teams in both the men’s and women’s tournaments, including all four top seeds on the men’s side in Gonzaga, Arizona, Kansas and Baylor.

Perhaps the most intriguing school with teams in both events is Longwood. Both the Lancers men’s and women’s teams won Big South Conference Tournament crowns to earn NCAA berths for the first time in school history.

Other schools with teams in the men’s and women’s tournaments: UConn, Arkansas, Norte Dame, Montana State, North Carolina, Indiana, Texas, Virginia Tech, Kentucky, Michigan, Tennessee, Ohio State, Villanova, Delaware, Creighton, Iowa, LSU, Iowa State and Miami.

HOME, SWEET HOME

Don’t look for many surprises in opening games as the NCAA Tournament returns to campus sites.

However, there could be a few upsets in the second round.

No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3 seeds are 324-1 in opening round games since the field was set at 64. The lone upset was No. 16 Harvard defeating top-seeded Stanford on its home court in 1998.

No. 4 seeds have gone 108-10 against 13th-seeded opponents.

The second is a different story: In each of the past three NCAA Tournaments that started on home courts in 2017, 2018 and 2019, only 12 of 16 homes teams advanced from the second round to the Sweet 16.

BACK HOME

The tournament’s overall No. 1 seed, South Carolina, will host its first home NCAA game since 2018. The Gamecocks played in Charlotte in 2019 because a men’s NCAA regional was held at their home building. The 2020 tournament was canceled due to COVID-19 while last year’s event was played entirely in San Antonio.

No. 24 Iowa closes out No. 9 Purdue 75-66 for Big Ten title

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INDIANAPOLIS — Keegan Murray had 19 points and 11 rebounds as No. 24 Iowa beat No. 9 Purdue 75-66 to win its first Big Ten Tournament championship since 2006 and earn the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament on Sunday.

The sixth-seeded Hawkeyes (26-9) became the fourth team in conference history to claim the title by winning four games in four days. Iowa was also the first school to do it, in 2001, and Michigan repeated the feat in 2017 and 2018.

The Hawkeyes won their first title since 2006, one week after the Iowa women won the Big Ten tourney on the same court.

“We knew this team was destined for greatness,” said Murray, who was selected the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player. “And we changed the direction of the Iowa program today.”

Iowa did it with a record-breaking scoring performance and by beating the Boilermakers about a one-hour drive from their campus in West Lafayette. Iowa’s 351 points broke Ohio State’s tournament record of 322, set last year.

Iowa heads into the NCAA Tournament with nine wins in its last 10 games.

Jaden Ivey scored 20 points and Trevion Williams had 11 points and 11 rebounds to lead Purdue (28-7), which failed to capture either the regular-season or tournament title despite spending most of the season as the highest-ranked team in the conference. Purdue hasn’t won the Big Ten Tournament since 2009.

It’s not as if the Boilermakers didn’t have a chance.

But Purdue had nine turnovers, missed four free throws and never led in the first half as the energized Hawkeyes took a 35-32 halftime lead.

With the Purdue-friendly crowd roaring loudly early in the second half, it looked like the Boilermakers would respond when Eric Hunter Jr.’s 3-pointer with 3:13 to play capped a 7-0 run that trimmed the deficit to 63-62.

But Connor McCaffery responded with a three-point play on the ensuing possession. Iowa only allowed four points the rest of the way, closing it out at the line, silencing the crowd and setting off a wild post-game celebration near midcourt.

“It is hard to describe,” Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said. “This game is really special, special to me because I get to coach my boys and to see them celebrate with their teammates and celebrate together, there’s no better feeling.”

Indianapolis native Tony Perkins had 11 points and four assists for the Hawkeyes while Payton Sandfort added 10 points.

“We had a lot of goals and sometimes you have to make changes,” Fran McCaffery said. “But this team accepted its roles and we beat a really good team today.”

Zach Edey had 12 points and 14 rebounds for Purdue.

BIG PICTURE

Iowa: A strong finish – and tourney title – could propel the Hawkeyes to a top-five seed, maybe even a No. 4 seed, and a possible trip to Milwaukee. Regardless of who they play or where they land, one of America’s most prolific scoring teams will be a handful.

Purdue: A loss in the championship game could prove costly to the Boilermakers. They could slide from the No. 2 line to the No. 3 line. Will it cost them a second straight bus trip down I-65 to Indianapolis? Maybe. But Purdue needs fewer unforced errors on offense and more production from its 3-point shooters.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

Iowa will continue ascending in Monday’s rankings, perhaps even cracking the top 15. The bigger question is whether Purdue did enough to extend its record streak of consecutive weeks in the top 10 to 19.

ALL-TOURNEY

Murry and Iowa guard Jordan Bohannon, who banked in the tiebreaking 3-pointer with 0.8 seconds left to beat Indiana on Saturday, were both selected to the all-tournament team. They were joined by Ivey, Williams and Trayce Jackson-Davis of Indiana.

UP NEXT

The teams wait to see where they fit in the 68-team field.