116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
IOWA CITY — Three years ago, Cedar Rapids Prairie’s opponents could have told you there wasn’t much physical or basketball difference between twin brothers Keegan and Kris Murray.
Keegan averaged 20.3 points, Kris 18.4. “I was usually better scoring than he was,” Kris said Thursday night about their basketball lives. “But he has taken that next step. He’s leading the country in scoring, which is incredible.”
Also incredible: With Keegan playing with foul trouble almost the whole game, twin brother and fellow Iowa sophomore Kris had career-highs of 29 points and 11 rebounds, blocked three shots, had three steals, and outperformed Indiana junior star big man Trayce Jackson-Davis and everyone else.
Iowa, which had trailed by 11 points late in the first half and was down 48-41 at halftime, rallied to an 83-74 win at Carver-Hawkeye Arena before an announced crowd of 11,246.
The Hawkeyes improved to 12-4 overall, 2-3 in the Big Ten. Indiana is 12-4, 3-3.
It was far more than Kris Murray that engineered a defensive renaissance for Iowa in a second half in which it stole the ball 10 times. Fellow subs Connor McCaffery, Tony Perkins and Ahron Ulis, for instance, were essential in the comeback.
“Those guys come in a game and impact a game,” Iowa Coach Fran McCaffery said. “Connor’s going to impact a game with his toughness, with his knowledge. Tony, with his speed and his aggressiveness. Ahron’s steady, but he was getting downhill and really attacking their defense.”
But it was Kris Murray who kept the Hawkeyes afloat with 17 first-half points. Keegan had two first-half fouls and sat out the final 9:32 of the half, and had four fouls with 10:54 left in the game. Fellow front-liner Filip Rebraca also faced foul trouble.
Kris just kept making shots, making plays. Then he was the subject of hugs and affectionate bumps from virtually each of his teammates after the game ended.
“It’s just a great feeling,” he said. “I didn’t really know how many points I had, but I guess it was a pretty good game.”
It isn’t as if Kris hadn’t had his moments before Thursday. He had seven games of at least 12 points this season after barely playing as a freshman. This, however, was the first time he did what his brother has done many times this season in averaging 23.9 points. He put the Hawkeyes on his shoulders.
Kris’ job, as he sees it, is “just being that guy off the bench who can be aggressive, get rebounds, play multiple positions, just look for other people and create opportunities.”
With Keegan spending almost 18 minutes on the sideline, Kris also had to be the guy putting the ball in the basket. Perhaps his defining play was his last hoop of the night. With his team up 78-70 and under three minutes left, he didn’t hesitate to drive down the left side of the lane for a layup.
This was storybook stuff. Keegan, who scored 12 points Thursday, has shown enough to be in the top six or seven of seemingly everyone’s way-too-early 2022 NBA mock drafts. He was hamstrung by fouls this night, so his brother played like, well, him.
“No one’s really been able to stop him,” Kris said of his twin. “Except when he gets in foul trouble, I guess. He’s kind of an all-around player you can’t guard.”
That described Kris Thursday.
“He protected the rim, he’s hitting 3s, he’s driving the ball,” McCaffery said. “In the first half we had five offensive rebounds. He had ‘em all.”
McCaffery verbally scalded his team during first-half timeouts because of its defensive shortcomings. Iowa starters Joe Toussaint and Patrick McCaffery forced one of Indiana’s 23 turnovers on the Hoosiers’ first possession of the second half, and the defense stayed good the rest of the game.
“It’s toughness, it’s being connected, but it’s understanding the game,” Fran McCaffery said. “It’s understanding who are we playing, what are they trying to do to us?”
The Hoosiers picked Iowa’s defense apart in the first half. In the second half, Indiana was picked clean.
And Kris Murray played a vintage Keegan Murray-type game. Why, it was as if Keegan had a twin.
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