IOWA CITY — The Iowa men’s basketball team’s win at Seton Hall last Wednesday night served as a coming-out party for junior Kris Murray. In a nationally televised game, Murray posted a game-high 29 points (tying his career high) and cemented his status as a top player to watch this season.
The Hawkeyes returned home Monday night and Murray delivered an even better offensive continuation against Omaha while continuing Iowa’s undefeated start to the season.
Behind a career-high 30 points from Murray, Iowa defeated Omaha 100-64 to improve to 4-0 and entered a key stretch in the non-conference schedule. Patrick McCaffery contributed 16 points and five rebounds and Filip Rebraca contributed eight points and eight rebounds.
Iowa announced before the tip that starting point guard Tony Perkins would be out with a hamstring injury. Without him, the Hawkeye offensive got off to a stuttering start, shooting 0-to-5 from the field and a turnover in the opening minutes. But then Murray’s hot night of filming began.
More:Podcast: Kris Murray and Tony Perkins ignite Iowa basketball’s solid road win over Seton Hall
Over the next five minutes, Murray accounted for 14 of Iowa’s 17 points as the team began to take control of the game. His dominance continued as the other four starters battled offensively; Murray converted 11 straight shot attempts from the 17:13 mark with 34 seconds remaining. Murray almost topped Omaha in the first half (he had 25 points, Omaha had 28). As the second half began, Murray took a step back offensively and the other starters began to make their move.
McCaffery initially led the charge and scored the team’s first nine points, then Rebraca responded with five of the team’s next seven points. And in Perkins’ place, junior Ahron Ulis found his stride after a shaky start, finishing the contest with seven points and four assists. And perhaps the best sign of all: After a cold spell taken by Seton Hall, Payton Sandfort scored eight points as a sophomore and recorded four rebounds in the second half.
The absence of Perkins and the addition of Ulis to the starting lineup also gave the Iowa benchers greater responsibility. Senior Connor McCaffery and true rookie Dasonte Bowen were the first two off the bench, each providing good moments. McCaffery’s hot shooting early in the season continued as he finished with 12 points on 4-of-5 shooting and added four assists. Bowen played 18 minutes and showed a little bit of everything offensively with 7 points and 3 assists. And true newcomer Josh Dix also had some chances with nine points from a trio of three. Iowa’s bench behind Ulis and Connor McCaffery is one of the early question marks of the season. It will be interesting to see how deep the bench goes this weekend (Iowa only played seven players extensively against Seton Hall) and whether Monday’s game earned Bowen and Dix more minutes.
Overall, Monday night’s win for Iowa allowed the entire team to get more preseason minutes, with the top 10 scholars seeing game time. But this is the final vote before the team travels to Niceville, Fla. to compete in the Emerald Coast Classic. The team’s first game will be against Clemson, then potentially a matchup against TCU in a game that would impact the top-25 rankings.
Iowa passed all tests early in the season, and now bigger tests await.