IOWA CITY, Iowa - Keegan Murray’s line was impressive, his coach said.
But there was something Fran McCaffery appreciated even more about his sophomore forward in Iowa’s 86-69 win over North Carolina Central on Tuesday at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
Murray had 27 points and 21 rebounds. He went 9-of-19 from the field, but McCaffery broke that stat down even more.
“The thing about it is he doesn’t really hunt shots,” McCaffery said. “If I were to break it (down), I thought he took one bad shot today. Your leading scorer has the green light to take more than one bad shot, but he took one.”
The Hawkeyes (3-0) were sluggish all of the first half and through most of the early part of the second half, and someone had to respond.
Murray went down the checklist of what he needed to do — chase rebounds, give defensive effort, and provide offense on a night when Iowa was having trouble making outside shots.
“I just felt like I needed to do my part,” Murray said.
Which Murray did. He became the first Hawkeye since Greg Brunner in 2006 to have 20 or more rebounds in a game.
It was the first career double-double for Murray, who is averaging 25.3 points and 10.7 rebounds to start the season. Murray, who also had four blocked shots, is the first major conference player with 27 or more points, 21 or more rebounds, and four or more blocks since Kansas State’s Michael Beasley versus Sacramento State on Nov. 9, 2007
“It’s not like we ran a ton of stuff for him,” McCaffery said. “He just gets (the ball). The guys are unselfish, and they find him.”
The Hawkeyes were disrupted almost from the beginning. They were without Kris Murray, Keegan’s twin brother, who was out with an illness. Then, starting forward Filip Rebraca picked up two fouls, and Keegan Murray picked up an early foul.
That softened Iowa’s interior game, and North Carolina Central (0-3) was able to exploit that, getting 30 points inside as the Hawkeyes led just 49-44 at halftime.
Iowa led just 57-54 with 13:05 to play when McCaffery put together a lineup that would take control of the second half. Rebraca and Murray would stay in, and guards Connor McCaffery, Ahron Ulis and Tony Perkins would come into the game to replace Joe Toussaint, Patrick McCaffery and Jordan Bohannon.
That lineup would stay on the court for almost 12 minutes.
“We just needed a lineup that would give us some defensive intensity,” Murray said. “I think that lineup meshed.”
Fran McCaffery didn’t want to mess with the chemistry as the Hawkeyes outscored North Carolina Central 29-15 the rest of the game.
“Normally I would go get them,” McCaffery said. “But they seemed not to tire. Typically when you’re pressing, and you’re guarding man-to-man off the dribble, and they’re sending everybody to the glass and everybody’s rebounding, it wears you down. But they didn’t seem to get tired, and they seemed to be connected.”
“We’re all athletic,” said Perkins, who had a career-high 13 points. “So we were just moving, switching everything, so we made sure to shut down the inside-outside game.”
Perkins was 4-of-7 from the field, including two first-half 3-pointers.
“Seeing those two drop really helped my confidence,” Perkins said.
Ulis added 12 points and four assists.
“This game would certainly give (Perkins and Ulis) confidence moving forward,” McCaffery said.
“Once they get more run, they’ll get more confidence,” Murray said.
Bohannon hit his first 3-pointer of the game to tie Ohio State’s Jon Diebler for the Big Ten’s career 3-point record, but then missed his next nine shots.
“I thought, ‘He’s going to be on his way,’” McCaffery said. “The second half, he missed a couple that everyone was shocked didn’t go in.”
Iowa was 5-of-23 in 3-pointers, but a 35-of-41 night in free throws helped.
The Hawkeyes had been challenged and survived.
“They kept coming,” McCaffery said of North Carolina Central. “And that’s how you grow up.”