Murray leads Hawkeyes on his terms

IOWA CITY — Before the start of the season, Kris Murray insisted he had no intention of copying what his brother Keegan Murray brought to the court for the Iowa basketball team last season.

The junior forward saw himself averaging fewer points and more assists as his role with the Hawkeyes expanded after his brother’s early exit from the NBA as the fourth pick in this year’s draft.

Four games into the season, Murray continues to go his own way but has become an early offensive force for Iowa.

When the Hawkeyes fell 10-2 at Seton Hall in a game on November 16 at Seton Hall, it was Murray who boosted the Iowa offense and led the team to an 83-67 away win.

When only three of the first ten shots were fired in the Hawkeyes’ 100-64 win over Omaha on Monday, it was Murray who rose.

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He hit Iowa’s first six field goals in the game and scored 11 consecutive tries on his way to a 13-of-17 game from the field.

He scored a career-high 30 points to take the Hawkeyes 4-0 this season, a game after setting his career-high 29 points against the Pirates.

As Iowa prepares for Friday’s 6:00 p.m. contest against Clemson at the Emerald Coast Classic, Murray is averaging 23.8 points and eight rebounds per game while shooting 62.5% from the field and 47.8% in 23 attempts shoots from the 3-point range.

And he didn’t miss the line in 14 attempts.

He could influence the game the way he wanted, which was his main goal for the season.

On Monday, that started at the offensive end of the court.

“I got into a rhythm early on, just easy baskets, open jump shots, it just came to me,” Murray said. “There were different areas where I could influence the game. It’s what I want to do and it had to be scored (Monday night) just to give us a head start.”

The seemingly effortless effort early in the season reminds teammate Patrick McCaffery of what he saw a year ago when he shared the seat with Keegan Murray.

“How many hard punches did Keegan take last year? Not many,” he said. “It was just easy.”

Coach Fran McCaffery agrees.

“Kris had that role tonight,” McCaffery said. “That’s what it looked like for Kris.”

He sees him making and making high-percentage shots, working in the flow of what’s happening on the pitch and stepping up when challenged.

“Nothing bothers him,” said coach McCaffery. “There was a lot of talk about it the other night (at Seton Hall). He’s 29, tonight 30. He doesn’t pay attention.”

Murray emphasizes that this will remain the case.

“I know people compare us a lot and he definitely had a really good season last year so it would be easy to step into his shadow I think,” Murray said.

“But I know I’m not the same person as him. I’m doing my own thing in Iowa and trying to take that as far as possible.”

Murray leads a starting XI all in double-digit averages while the 25th-ranked Hawkeyes prepare to face Clemson in the opening round of the four-team tournament in Niceville, Fla.

TCU, who started 3-1, and a California team without a win in five games will be Iowa’s opponents on Saturday.

Back-to-back days of play will test the depth of Murray and the Hawkeyes.

Patrick McCaffery welcomes that.

“It’s game after game, it’s always like that, but to be a part of games like this, that’s why you play in Iowa,” he said. “It will help us as we move forward.”

Murray is also looking forward to it and expects to learn from how people are defending him after his quick attacking start to the season.

“Maybe I’ll see more doubles teams. People might try to rush me. We’ll see,” Murray said. “I’ll just try to keep it simple, do the easy games and not try to overthink things.”