IOWA CITY — Kris Murray’s quote resonated nationwide last week. It was shared like wildfire on social media. And after a performance like Monday’s, it will continue to gain traction.
“I am my own person now. People will know my name.”
Murray said that after peaking his career with 29 points in Iowa’s decisive win at Seton Hall. On Monday, he surpassed that with a career-high 30 points in 29 minutes in the Hawkeyes’ 100-64 win in Omaha at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
It just looked like this:Kris Murray’s career night progresses in Iowa men’s basketball to defeat Omaha
This was a night Murray could have scored 40 points if the situation deserved it. (For reference, Keegan’s career high for his twin brother/No. 4 NBA draft pick was 37 points.) Murray missed his first shot; it has been blocked. He made his next 11.
That’s hard to do. But it didn’t look difficult. Slashes into lane, spin moves, dunks, 3-pointers. Murray did everything. Sensing that his teammates were struggling, he just took over, scoring 14 of Iowa’s first 17 points. Then the router was on.
“It was easy. This isn’t a shot at Omaha … but it was just easy,” said teammate Patrick McCaffery (16 points) of Murray. “That’s what makes these guys really good. How many hard hits does he have like Keegan did last year? Not many. It was easy.”
Murray grinned at the 11 straight buckets and said they were all easy shots. Maybe they were for him. The 6-foot-8 Murray was 4-of-6 from 3-point range and is 11-of-23 from range (47.8%) for the young season.
“I’ve never had a run like this in my life,” Murray said. “It’s kind of cool just being in the moment.”
After scoring 59 points in two games and taking his point average to 23.8, the Kris Murray show was launched. He’s already the face of the team.
Next up for Iowa basketball: The Emerald Coast Classic
And now the games are getting bigger. The Hawkeyes’ next six opponents come from power conferences, beginning with a double dip on Thanksgiving weekend at the Emerald Coast Classic in Niceville, Fla.
Clemson is first on Friday at 6 p.m. on CBS Sports Network. Then it’s either TCU or California on Saturday. A potential matchup between Iowa and TCU lost some of its luster when the preseason top-15 Horned Frogs lost 64-63 to KenPom.com-ranked 336-ranked Northwestern State a week ago. (How’s that for sick symmetry? That was the exact score from Northwestern State’s stunning upset of Iowa in the first round of the 2006 NCAA tournament.).
KenPom reckons Iowa is eight points better than Clemson. The Hawkeyes, one-star in hand and new at No. 25 in Monday’s Associated Press poll, could now be the team to beat at the two-day tournament in Florida. Head coach Fran McCaffery likes the veteran atmosphere he saw in his team’s 4-0 opener.
“I think we played well for the most part. Sure, some mistakes happened. But we’re locked into the game plan and executing the game plan,” McCaffery said. “That is crucial. As you progress and start playing against really good teams, stick with the game plan and execute it. They have proven they can do it.”
And now, if he wasn’t already, Murray will be at the top of every opponent’s scouting report.
Kris Murray salutes his role at the helm of Hawkeyes basketball
Following the Emerald Coast Classic, Atlantic Coast Conference opponents await Georgia Tech (Nov. 29) and Duke (Dec. 6 at Madison Square Garden). And then there’s Iowa State and Wisconsin. If Murray can be slowed down, these teams will find a way.
“I might see more doubles teams, more people trying to rush me,” Murray said. “For me, it means keeping it simple. Keep playing how I play. Just do the simple games and don’t think about it.
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But the immediate goal is to win two games this weekend and return to Iowa City with a 6-0 record. Combo guard Tony Perkins (lower leg injury) has health to monitor; Fran McCaffery said Perkins was in a lot of pain but sounded cautiously optimistic he would return for Clemson. This will be the Hawkeyes’ first games on consecutive days since they racked up four wins in four days to win last year’s Big Ten tournament.
Kris Murray was then a bencher while Keegan had a Big Ten tournament record.
Now it’s Kris’ turn to leave his mark. His teammates recognize that, another aspect that pleased Fran McCaffery on Monday.
“You have a guy who runs so well, you have to charge him,” said the head coach. “Don’t rush to shoot the ball when you’ve got a guy on fire like that. Let it happen. Go on to him.”
And that’s the plan now. All season long.
Continue to Murray. He’s shown he’s ready to take the lead from the start, just like his identical twin brother did a year ago, until he lost to Richmond in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
“It would be easy to kind of fall into his shadow, I guess. But I know I’m not the same person as him,” Kris said Monday. “I’m doing my own thing in Iowa and trying to take this team as far as possible.”