Kris Murray's career night lifts Iowa basketball past Indiana in crucial Big Ten showdown
In virtual must -win game in Big Ten Conference play, Iowa's Thursday night game against Indiana had all the makings of a Hawkeye meltdown. Head coach Fran McCaffery had several, visible outbursts, both to his players for their uninspired paly at times and at the officials for several calls that went against his team, for which he received a technical foul.
Keegan Murray scored his lowest point total of the season (12), Indiana shot 51% from the field and held the lead for over 25 minutes of the game.
And yet, Iowa found a way down the stretch to secure a 83-74 win and move to 2-3 in conference play. A Murray had a career night but it wasn't Keegan. It was brother Kris who had his signature game.
The backup forward scored a career-high 29 points while pulling in 11 rebounds to propel Iowa to a win. Brother Keegan Murray had foul trouble throughout the game and McCaffery continued to call Kris' number in his absence and he continued to deliver.
Streaky play by both teams contributed to four lead changes and at five different times the score was tied in the first half. Indiana had an 8-0 run early, then the Hawkeyes responded with a 10-0 run of their own, which prompted an Indiana timeout.
But no run was more important than the final 9 ½ minutes of the first half when Keegan Murray notched his second foul and left the game. At that point, Iowa led 28-23 but his absence sparked a 20-4 Indiana run that gave the Hoosiers a 48-41 halftime lead.
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But it's worth noting that Kris played the best half of his career in Keegan's place, scoring 17 points and pulling in seven rebounds. Timely free throw shooting by Iowa in the final two minutes of the first half supplemented a shooting slump that allowed it to hang close at the half.
Foul trouble continued to plague Iowa's team in the second half. Keegan Murray took his third foul with 15:26 remaining and went back to the bench. He subbed back in at the 12:04 mark but took his fourth foul less than three minutes later. Additionally, center Filip Rebraca also took his fourth foul seconds after Murray, taking him off the floor.
But Iowa continued to find an answer through its bench play. From the 10:23 mark until 6:50, Tony Perkins and Kris Murray combined for nine of Iowa's 11 points. Perkins contributed eight points overall, all but one basket in the second half. Iowa's bench outscored Indiana's 24-3 in the second half and 46-17 for the game.
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Down the stretch, McCaffery opted for Ahron Ulis, Jordan Bohannon, Connor McCaffery, Filip Rebraca and a Keegan/Kris rotation to close out the game. In the final six minutes, that group held Indiana to just three made field goals and eight points overall. The defense wasn't sound throughout but in the closing minutes performed much better.
And Iowa's biggest Achilles heel, rebounding, was much improved from its last outing. A 35-31 rebounding margin in favor of Iowa is much more respectable. In the second half Iowa won the rebounding battle by a 22-14 rebounding margin with 11 offensive rebounds. Yet again, a long layoff led to an all-out effort performance.
Iowa successfully began a critical four-game stretch with a win on Thursday. With a Jan. 27 game against Purdue looming, getting to above .500 in conference play before then will be top of the priority list.
On Sunday, the Hawkeyes can accomplish another big feat, their first Big Ten road win of the season, when they travel to Minnesota.
Kennington Lloyd Smith III covers Iowa Hawkeyes football and men's basketball for the Des Moines Register. You can connect with Kennington on Twitter @SkinnyKenny_ or email him at email@example.com.