IOWA CITY, Iowa - His teammates weren’t about to let Kris Murray get off the court without a celebration.
Joe Toussaint grabbed Murray first, then the rest of the Iowa players swarmed the sophomore forward, and they all jumped and danced from mid-court to in front of the Hawkeyes’ bench.
Murray knew he had played well, but he wasn’t clear on the numerical evidence.
“I guess,” Murray said, “it was a pretty good game.”
Yeah, you could say that.
Murray had 29 points and 11 rebounds for his first career double-double as Iowa fought for an 83-74 win over Indiana on Thursday night at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
Murray made 12-of-18 shots. He had six offensive rebounds, five coming in the first half. He added three steals, three blocks, and two assists.
“I mean, Kris Murray … man,” forward Filip Rebraca said, laughing, and really, he didn’t need to say much more.
Iowa (12-4 overall, 2-3 Big Ten) needed all of what Murray gave. His brother, Keegan, the nation’s leading scorer, battled foul trouble all night. So did Rebraca.
Murray had nine points in the Hawkeyes’ 12-0 run in the first half that gave them their first lead of the night. He had a critical 3-pointer with 8:35 remaining in the game that gave Iowa a 64-60 lead. His steal and dunk with 4:01 to go gave the Hawkeyes their first double-digit lead of the night at 76-66.
And when he drove to the basket with no hesitation with 2:44 to play, the margin was 80-70.
“I kind of saw some of my opportunities come alive,” Murray said. “And I was able to maximize those opportunities.”
“He was all over the place,” Rebraca said.
Murray has been a key part of Iowa’s bench all season, his confidence steadily increasing.
“I kept telling him, shoot it, drive it. If you miss, run back, block a shot, get a rebound,” Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said. “Don’t let it linger on you.”
The key in this game, McCaffery said, was how Murray played when he first entered.
“The thing that I think was really critical was he protected the rim, he was hitting threes, he was driving the ball,” McCaffery said. “In the first half, we had five offensive rebounds. He had them all.”
The back that carried the Hawkeyes had the name Murray on the jersey, but it belonged to Kris.
“It’s obviously a new spot for me, because that’s obviously Keegan’s role,” Kris Murray said. “It was just an opportunity I had.”
Even with Murray’s first-half play, the Hawkeyes trailed 48-41 at halftime. Their stagnation at times on both ends of the court led to a couple of McCaffery timeout eruptions, and the players knew something had to start the second half.
It was Toussaint who did that. He poked the ball away from Indiana’s Xavier Johnson 16 seconds into the second half, leading to a scramble of diving bodies and a jump ball. The alternating possession belonged to the Hawkeyes. Keegan Murray scored 15 seconds after that, and suddenly an arena that was maybe two-thirds full became as loud as a packed house.
“I think that was a big play of the game,” McCaffery said. “Instead of it going from seven to nine, it goes from seven to five. Patrick (McCaffery) is on the floor, Joe T is on the floor. I thought it was critical.”
“I think we carried that (momentum) on from that point on,” Rebraca said. “I felt like we were the tougher team in the second half.”
The Hawkeyes forced 14 second-half turnovers, leading to 21 points.
“We had some situations where we needed a stop,” McCaffery said. “And we got it.”
The contributions came from everywhere. Tony Perkins had a 6-0 run of his own that gave Iowa a 61-57 lead. Ahron Ulis provided four points and four rebounds, two coming in a second-half sequence in which he fought for offensive rebounds after his own missed shot, eventually getting fouled before making two free throws. Connor McCaffery had five points, including a 3-pointer during that 12-0 first-half run.
“We just have that mindset that we’re not going to have that drop-off from the first group to the second group,” Kris Murray said.
Keegan Murray finished with 12 points. Jordan Bohannon added 11.
Trayce Jackson-Davis led Indiana (12-4, 3-3) with 18 points and 11 rebounds.
It was a feisty game — Fran McCaffery got a technical foul in the first half, and Connor McCaffery was in the center of some pushing and exchange of words at the end of the half.
But the Hawkeyes would stay steady, carried by a quiet sophomore who had the best game of his career.
“It’s just a great feeling,” Kris Murray said, still smiling as he thought about the post-game party. “All of those emotions throughout the game, all in one place. It was pretty special.”