IOWA CITY, Iowa - Keegan Murray has shown in the first five games of Iowa’s season that there will be a time when he takes over a game.
He did that from the beginning of Monday’s 109-61 win over Western Michigan at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
Murray scored the Hawkeyes’ first 17 points, 20 of the first 23. And those points came from everywhere.
It’s something teammate Tony Perkins sees in practice when he has to guard Murray.
“I do my best to guard him,” Perkins said. “But he still scores. That’s what he does.
“Can’t stop him if he’s hitting everything.”
Murray had 22 first-half points and finished with 29, going 10-of-14 from the field. He is averaging 26.2 points in 24 minutes per game in the Hawkeyes’ 5-0 start.
Like Perkins, the Broncos had no answer for Murray. He drew eight fouls, and got seven of his points from free throws.
There is an assertiveness that comes with Murray’s evolution from key player off the bench to starter and dominant scorer, from an unknown freshman at the beginning of the season to a known commodity with high expectations to start this year.
“He never forces the issue, no matter what,” Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said. “But obviously we need him to be the way he is now. And he accepts what we ask from him.”
“It’s just being aggressive,” Murray said. “Last year I was playing a different role, and this year I wanted to be more assertive on the offensive end. Use my ability as much as I can.”
It was clear this was going to be another Murray show. At one point the Hawkeyes led 17-8 — Murray had all of his team’s points, Western Michigan’s Mack Smith had all of his team’s scoring.
Then the rest of the Hawkeyes started contributing. Iowa led 49-20 at halftime and just kept going.
Three other Hawkeyes scored in double figures. Freshman Payton Sandfort continued the solid start to his career with 19 points. Perkins had 15. Kris Murray, Keegan’s twin brother, had 12. Ahron Ulis added eight assists in 18 minutes.
Iowa’s defense was nothing but constant pressure for the Broncos. The Hawkeyes forced 24 turnovers leading to 36 points. Western Michigan shot 38.1 percent for the game, 29.6 percent in the first half.
“I thought the press was really good,” McCaffery said. “The activity, whether it was in the press or the half-court (man-to-man), it was intense and connected.”
Perkins’ overall floor game was something McCaffery appreciated.
“I think Tony, that’s just the way he plays,” McCaffery said. “That’s when he’s the most effective, playing that way. He’s always going to play the game with an edge, a little reckless abandon. I thought tonight, he was really good at both ends. And that’s how he has to be.”
Murray is how he has to be.
“It’s something I work on,” he said. “All the offseason work I put in lets me do different things on the court. And you saw that today.”