Murray twins combine for 52 points as Iowa crushes Utah State
Twin brother Kris Murray scores career-high 17 points
By Pat Harty
As ridiculous as it might seem now, Keegan Murray had one scholarship offer coming out Cedar Rapids Prairie High School in 2019.
It was from Western Illinois.
Iowa had shown interest, but Fran McCaffery needed to see more development from Keegan, and from Keegan’s twin brother, Kris Murray, before offering either of them a scholarship.
The twins showed enough development while attending a Florida prep school for one year after high school, and Fran McCaffery offered them both scholarships.
McCaffery now looks like a genius as the 6-foot-8 Keegan Murray continues to perform at a star level, while the 6-8 Kris Murray continues to excel off the bench.
Keegan Murray scored a career-high 35 points on 13-of-17 shooting from the field in Saturday’s 94-75 victory over Utah State at the Sanford Pentagon in Sioux Falls, South Dakota as Iowa ended a three-game losing streak and improved to 8-3 overall.
Kris Murray matched his career-high in Saturday’s game with 17 points off the bench on 6-of-8 shooting from the field.
The fact that the Murray twins combined for 52 points and made 19-of-25 field-goal attempts on the their father’s birthday made it even more special.
Keegan and Kris Murray are the sons of former Iowa basketball player Kenyon Murray, who was part of the sellout crowd that attended Saturday’s game.
“He’s a great player,” Keegan Murray said of his brother on the Learfield post-game radio show. “He had a great game on my day’s birthday. So that was a plus for him.”
Keegan Murray had been hampered by a right ankle injury, and that was a big reason Iowa had lost its previous three games.
He didn’t play in the 77-70 loss at Purdue on Dec. 3 and clearly wasn’t himself in losses to Illinois and Iowa State, and especially against the Cyclones.
Iowa then had nine days off for finals week and that apparently was enough time for Keegan Murray to get healthy.
He played with the same quickness and burst in Saturday’s game that he had shown before the injury occurred.
“Obviously, I had the ankle that was bugging me the last two weeks,” Keegan Murray said. “So I just used those days to get as healthy as I could.”
Iowa turned what had been a competitive game for one half into a beat-down in the second half.
Keegan Murray went to the bench with 5 minutes, 11 seconds remaining and didn’t return because the outcome already was decided.
Keegan Murray had served notice that he was healthy again, while his twin brother showed that he was making huge strides.
Saturday’s game was played before a sellout crowd of 3,250 and it marked the third time that Iowa has played at the Sanford Pentagon where it has a 2-1 record. Iowa defeated Colorado at the Sanford Pentagon in 2017 and lost to Gonzaga last December.
Iowa had a 35-23 rebounding advantage in Saturday’s game after having been dominated on the boards in the previous three games, and an 18-3 advantage in points off turnovers.
It was arguably Iowa’s best performance of the season against an opponent that played in the NCAA Tournament in each of the past three seasons.
Utah State used the 3-point shot to keep pace with the Hawkeyes in the first half, but Iowa picked up the intensity on defense in the second half and then pulled away.
With the score knotted at 43, Iowa closed the first half on an 8-0 scoring run to take a 51-43 lead at halftime.
Keegan Murray scored nearly half of Iowa’s points in the first half with 25, which was just four off his career high.
Iowa shot a blistering 69.0 percent in the first half and scored 32 points in the paint.
The second unit provided its usual spark in the first half, especially on defense, and Iowa seemed on its way to ending its three-game losing streak at halftime.
Iowa picked up in the second half where it left off in the first half, outscoring Utah State 11-3 to take a 62-46 lead.
The lead swelled to 30 points in the second half as Fran McCaffery emptied his bench.
Fran McCaffery had high praise for the sellout crowd that gave Iowa a huge home-court advantage away from home.
“They were here early and they were ready to make a difference,” Fran McCaffery said. “They wanted to impact this game and what a great feeling for our guys. The bench was into it because of the crowd. And when we struggled early defensively, they kept us us going and once w broke it open they were on fire.”
Iowa’s next game is Tuesday against Southeastern Louisiana at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.