Iowa forward Kris Murray (24) shoots during the Hawkeyes’ 100-64 win over Omaha Monday night at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. (Nick Rohlman/The Gazette)
IOWA CITY – Sequels are often watered down versions of the originals.
That’s certainly not the case with “The Murray Show,” which is once again garnering rave reviews from Iowa men’s basketball watchers.
Last season, of course, Keegan Murray was an All-America forward, averaging 23.5 points for a Hawkeyes team that went 26-10. In the previous season, he averaged 7.2 points.
Keegan joined the Sacramento Kings last spring. Kris Murray stayed. He snatched the torch from his twin brother and has been torching opponents so far this season.
Murray had a career-high 30 points in No. 25 Iowa’s 100-64 win over the Omaha Mavericks on Monday night. That brings his scoring average to 23.8 after averaging a 9.7 last season. He has 59 points in his last two games for the 4-0 Hawkeyes.
Murray had his first shot of the game blocked.
“Yeah, I was kind of pissed off,” he said. “I don’t think I missed a shot until the last shot (first half).”
Right. He made 11 straight tries, including three 3-pointers for a 25-point first half that ended with a 49-28 lead in Iowa. That was after a slow start for the Hawkeyes, who only led 10-9 by the seventh minute.
“We didn’t get easy baskets early on,” said Iowa forward Patrick McCaffery, “and then Kris got about a hundred of them. From then on we kind of rolled.”
Murray’s first-half performance surpassed the 24 points Keegan Murray had in the first half against Nebraska on February 13. He was knocked out with 8:40 to go, leaving Kris still chasing Keegan’s career-high 37.
“I could have left him in there and he could have made a really big number,” said Iowa coach Fran McCaffery. “But we won’t achieve anything. I will not hurt him. I got him out of there.”
Murray was named to the All-Big Ten preseason team, but this was still a player with a career start to the season. To live up to his brother’s achievements in 2021-22 would be a burden for many. Murray seems to be taking it well.
“I think people often compare us,” he said. “And he definitely had a good season last year. It would be easy to fall in his shadow I guess, but I know I’m not the same person as him. I’m doing my own thing in Iowa and trying to take this team as far as possible.
“I think we’re two different players, two different people, and I think it just gives me a little bit more motivation to do what he did and a little bit more.”
No Murray is an island. Iowa made a dozen 3-pointers in 26 attempts while rolling away. Patrick McCaffery scored the team’s first seven points of the second half and had 16 points and three steals. Connor McCaffery had a season-high 12 points and four assists.
Junior point guard Ahron Ulis, making his first career start because Tony Perkins was out with a hamstring injury, notched his first two 3-pointers of the year and had four assists.
“That was a great opportunity for me,” said Ulis. “I’ve been trying my whole life to start doing this. It’s a dream come true for most people growing up and I just went out there and took that opportunity and rode it.”
“He’s ready for that,” said Fran McCaffery. “He played like a veteran. … He was great.”
Freshman guard Josh Dix made three 3-pointers for nine points and freshman guard Dasonte Bowen had seven points. Those were career highlights for both of them.
Dylan Broughan, who had the early hit against Murray, had six blocks. His team fell back to 1-4. On November 7, the Mavericks were 13 points behind Kansas at halftime in Lawrence, losing 89-64.
They now play six straight games against teams from Power Five conferences, beginning with a clash with Clemson Friday at a tournament in Niceville, Florida.
Then it’s either TCU or California Saturday in Niceville, Georgia Tech in Iowa City next Tuesday, Duke in New York and Iowa State and Wisconsin in Carver.
Fran McCaffery doesn’t know if Perkins (averaging 13.3 points and 5.3 assists) would be fit this weekend, saying, “I would think so, but he’s injured. I think it happened over time.”
The Iowa vs. Clemson game takes place Friday at 6 p.m. CT on CBS Sports Network. Clemson (4-1) defeated Loyola (Md.) Monday, 72-41.
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