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IOWA CITY — Keegan Murray and the Iowa Hawkeyes filled up on sweets the first two-plus weeks of the men’s college basketball season.
Now it’s time to see how they all handle trying to eat something other than cupcakes.
An 85-51 win Friday night over Portland State at Carver-Hawkeye Arena concluded an intentionally soft initial portion of the schedule. With a couple of guys off to the NBA, this team needed to play at home against the Portland States, the Alabama States, the Longwoods early.
The next four opponents aren’t the Portland States, the Alabama States, the Longwoods. It’s Monday night at Virginia in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge, Friday night at Purdue, three days later at home against Illinois and three days after that at Iowa State.
Let’s see what you’ve got, Hawkeyes.
“A lot of guys with new roles, I wanted to give them an opportunity to grow,” Iowa Coach Fran McCaffery said. “To develop confidence, to be able to play through their mistakes, where every possession doesn’t have incredible things riding on it. You turn it over, you run back, guard your man, come down and make a good play. Play through your mistakes.
“Look at different combinations, have guys play different positions, knowing that from this point forward, it’s going to be really difficult.”
Let’s see what you’ve got Hawkeyes, and let’s see what you’ve got Murray.
The defensive going definitely will get rougher for the sophomore forward, who has been among the nation’s brightest stars to this point. The nation’s leading scorer had a season-LOW 23 points, adding nine rebounds, playing only seven minutes in the second half.
Murray had 21 points in the first half, as Iowa (6-0) incrementally built a 31-20 halftime lead. He scored 12 in a row at one point, with he and twin brother Kris combining for 19 straight Hawkeyes points at one point.
Kris finished the game with 13 points and six rebounds.
Keegan’s defining bucket capped off the brothers Murray run. He grabbed a defensive rebound, dribbled all the way down the floor and through the lane, posterizing a Portland State player underneath the hoop with a smooth, right-handed dunk.
“The work he’s putting in is definitely showing,” Kris Murray said. “He’s the player I’ve seen come alive this last year. His work ethic has been outstanding, and he’s basically been able to do whatever he wants on the floor.
“Of course that’s going to change these next couple weeks. We’ll be facing a little more talent, some big guys. But keep being aggressive.”
That means everyone. It was a good sign that Iowa scored 54 second-half points, and Keegan Murray had just two of them.
Iowa shot just 38 percent in the first half, and that was with Murray being 9 of 13 from the field, but the second-half offense overall was much more efficient and evenly distributed.
Patrick McCaffery returned to the starting lineup after a two-game absence due to a lower-body injury and had 14 second-half points. He was scoreless in the opening half.
“Good to be back,” he said. “I’ve practiced a little bit the last two days, but (Fran McCaffery) kind of limited me on what he wanted me to do. He wanted my leg to feel good today. I think it was just getting my legs back. It took a half to kind of get the rust off.”
Iowa shot 60.6 percent from the field in the final half. Tony Perkins made it four Iowa players to score in double figures with 10 points.
Portland State (2-3) got 18 points from guard Marlon Ruffin. It shot just 30.8 percent from the field.
“You love the increased competition,” Patrick McCaffery said. “I’m ready, and I’ve got a lot of dogs in the locker room who are also ready. I’m really excited and ready to make some noise these next four or five games.”
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