Iowa Men's Basketball

Patrick McCaffery, Keegan Murray give Iowa length, liveliness in opening win

The 2 freshmen and former prep rivals energize Hawkeyes in 97-67 victory

IOWA CITY — Patrick McCaffery and Keegan Murray were opponents and standouts in some great Mississippi Valley Conference high school basketball scraps against each other, with the wins going both ways.

Now, they’re freshman teammates at Iowa. If their first game together was any indication, they’ll be VIPs in college.

Cedar Rapids Prairie grad Murray and Iowa City West alum McCaffery were standouts in Iowa’s 97-67 season-opening win over North Carolina Central Wednesday at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

Murray, a 6-foot-8 first-year freshman and the twin brother of Iowa’s Kris Murray, had 12 points and seven rebounds. McCaffery, a 6-9 second-year freshman and the younger brother of Hawkeye guard Connor McCaffery, had 16 points. Both played 21 minutes.

“I think they both did a terrific job tonight,” said Iowa All-America senior center Luka Garza, an old salt who was none too shabby with 26 points in 24 minutes, and had seven offensive rebounds.

That, they did. The fifth-ranked Hawkeyes were none too wonderful in the game’s first 10 minutes. NCCU, a 28-point underdog, had a 19-16 lead midway through the first half and seemed to play with more enthusiasm.

Then came the freshmen. Either Murray or McCaffery were directly involved in six straight Iowa baskets during its 24-5 run for a 40-24 lead, and 12 points was as close as the Eagles would get after that.

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“Me and Patrick tried to be as active as you could,” Murray said. “We crashed the glass at every opportunity, every possession.

“I felt overall we just brought a spark off the bench that ended up helping the team.”

“Energy,” is what McCaffery said he wanted to bring into the game. The weirdness of playing in front of almost 15,000 empty seats may not have helped the Hawkeyes.

“I just felt like our energy was maybe a little lacking, so I just wanted to come out there and provide energy, be a little spark plug off the bench," he said.

You might assume top high school players who lived so near each other would have been AAU teammates at some point.

“They never really played together,” said Iowa Coach Fran McCaffery, “but they’ve played against each other since fourth grade. They were rivals in high school, but always had an excellent friendship.”

“I was telling (the Murrays) this summer that they were the best fourth-grade basketball players I ever played in my life,” Patrick said.

“They were late-bloomers, and all of a sudden in my senior year I’m looking eye-to-eye with Keegan.

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“I feel like, yeah, we all kind of play the same position, but we all bring different things to the table. I think Keegan is probably better inside than I am, but I’m kind of outside perimeter-oriented compared to him, and Kris is kind of a mixture of us both.”

Said Garza: “They’re the kind of guys you need off the bench when you’re trying to beat big teams.”

Both frosh used their long arms in Iowa’s 1-2-2 press. Both had scoring flurries. McCaffery had eight straight points in that 24-5 run. Murray made a pair of 3-pointers in a 28-second stretch of the second half.

Garza had his 17th-straight game of at least 20 points. Almost all of it came in the paint as the Eagles had no one who could hang with him.

Senior guard Jordan Bohannon, playing his first game in 11 months since hip surgery, made 2 of 7 3-pointers and played 26 minutes. He had five rebounds, one off his career-high.

The Hawkeyes get the second of their three straight shakedown cruises to start the season when they host Southern University Friday at 4 p.m. Southern plays North Carolina Central here Thursday afternoon.

Comments: (319) 368-8840; mike.hlas@thegazette.com

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