Iowa looks to feast on winless Alabama State

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Iowa's steady diet of nonconference appetizers continues Thursday night when the Hawkeyes face Alabama State in Iowa City.

Iowa (3-0) already has disposed of Longwood, Kansas City and North Carolina Central and won't face a power conference opponent until four days after Thanksgiving when it visits Virginia.

By then, the Hawkeyes will have played a succession of presumed nonconference turkeys, but they almost had some indigestion Tuesday night when North Carolina Central trailed only 49-44 at halftime. But Iowa clamped down on defense and held the Eagles to merely 25 second-half points for an 86-69 victory.

"It's a team that runs a million plays very well, has a good coach, and five drivers," Iowa coach Fran McCaffery explained afterward. "We made a few mistakes on our ball-screen defense and ended up getting it figured out."

Keegan Murray also bailed out the Hawkeyes with 27 points and 21 rebounds on a night when they shot 5-for-23 (21.7 percent) from 3-point range. Iowa had shot 38.8 percent from beyond the arc in its first two games, and the Hawkeyes rely heavily on that aspect of their offense.

Murray's twin brother, Kris (11.0 points per game), missed the game because of a non-COVID illness, but McCaffery is optimistic he will be able to play Thursday.

Alabama State (0-4) is on a five-game road trip and coach Mo Williams likes the progress his team has made, especially after a 68-60 loss to Iowa State on Tuesday in which the Hornets held the Cyclones to 1-of-20 shooting from beyond the arc.

"It's a good learning experience for our guys," Williams said. "It'll make us better."

He added, "I told the guys, Thursday we have to approach it like a tournament game. If we are fortunate to be SWAC champs, that is the type of team we will see. They are well-coached, they move the ball around well. ... Watching them, it doesn't even seem like they are running sets, they are just flowing into action. That is a sign of good teams."

Trace Young is leading a balanced Alabama State attack with 11.0 points per game. Texas transfer Gerald Liddell is averaging 7.5.

--Field Level Media