Iowa forward Payton Sandfort had some less than memorable performances in a sputtering conclusion to the 2022 calendar year. Shooting lines that included 0-7, 0-9, 5-14 and 0-3. Despite his struggles, Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery kept Sandfort in his sixth man role and gave him the opportunity to find his rhythm.

“He’s not going to trust himself if the coach doesn’t trust him,” McCaffery said. “I say it all the time — just trust your talent. I’m going to keep putting you in and we’re going to call your number. Just keep firing. I know he was down, but he never stopped fighting. I’m really, really proud of him for that. It’s great as a coach to see a guy succeed through that period of time.”

Coach McCaffery trusted Sandfort enough to play him 33 minutes off the bench. Iowa’s sophomore shooter has rewarded his head coach, carrying the Hawkeyes to victory over Michigan on Thursday night. 24 points in the second half for Sandfort, including a marvelous four-point play to force overtime. For Sandfort, it was all about sticking the course even though shots weren’t falling.

“I think everybody around me knew it was going to click at some point,” Sandfort said. “I’m just really proud of myself for sticking with it and glad we got here.”

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