Keegan Murray scores career-high 29 points in Iowa’s fifth win of the season

The Iowa men’s basketball team defeated Western Michigan, 109-61, at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Monday night to improve to 5-0 on the season.


Jerod Ringwald

Iowa forward Keegan Murray jumps from behind the basket on a reverse layup during a men’s basketball game between Iowa and Slippery Rock at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City on Friday, Nov. 5, 2021. Murray shot 7-10 from the field. The Hawkeyes beat The Pride of the Rock 99-47.

Robert Read, Pregame Editor

Forward Keegan Murray scored Iowa’s first 17 points in a 109-61 Hawkeye win over Western Michigan at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Monday.

“It’s just being aggressive,” Murray said after the win. “Last year, I was obviously playing a different role. This year, I wanted to be more assertive on the offensive end and use my abilities as much as I can. And you’ve seen that. I’ve been getting more and more confident throughout these first five games.”

The sophomore from Cedar Rapids finished the night with a career-high 29 points on 10-of-13 shooting. Murray has scored 20 more points in all five games to start the season, and has topped his career-best in scoring in three of the last four games. The 6-foot-8, 220-pounder is the Big Ten’s leading scorer this season and the first player since Kansas State’s Michael Beasley in 2007-08 to score 24 or more points in each of the first five games of the season.

Murray, the Big Ten Men’s Basketball Co-Player of the Week — an award he received on Monday morning — also recorded six rebounds, three blocks, and two steals in the Iowa win.

“He never forces the issue, no matter what, but we need him to be the way he is now,” Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery said of Murray’s aggressiveness on the court. “He accepts whatever you ask of him.”

The first Iowa points by a player other than Murray came when freshman Peyton Sandfort hit a 3-pointer with 10:25 remaining in the first half.

The Iowa men’s basketball program improves to 5-0 on the season. All of those wins were by double-digits against nonconference opponents. Iowa’s 109 points are a season-best through five games. Western Michigan falls to 1-3 on the season after its most recent loss.

Monday was the first meeting between the schools since 1951.

Western Michigan briefly led after taking a 2-0 lead on its first possession of the game. At least the Broncos had that going for them. It was never a particularly close game for very long after that. The Hawkeyes went on a 49-18 run to lead by 29 at halftime. McCaffery’s team outscored Western Michigan, 60-41, in the second half, with reserves playing a majority of the minutes.

Off the bench, Sandfort (19 points) and Tony Perkins (15) provided Murray with support in the scoring department. Sophomore guard Ahron Ulis added a career-high eight assists while working with the second unit.

The Hawkeyes shot 53 percent from the field 46 percent from 3-point range on Monday, while the Broncos shot 38 percent and 23 percent, respectively. Iowa forced 24 Western Michigan turnovers and scored 36 points off of those turnovers.

“Before we got into the huddle pregame, we said we had to play great defense,” Perkins said. “We just wanted to play head-on and get a lot of steals and start fast breaks.”

Injury update

Iowa’s starting forward Patrick McCaffery (lower body injury) and reserve center Josh Ogundele (non-COVID-19 related illness) did not play in Monday’s game. Connor McCaffery started in place of his brother, while Kris Murray and Riley Mulvey saw most of the action in the post off the bench.

Fran McCaffery said he expects both players to play in Iowa’s next game on Friday.

Up next

The Hawkeyes return to Carver-Hawkeye Arena for a home game against Portland State of the Big Sky Conference on Black Friday. Portland State is 2-1 this season and plays Portland on Tuesday before coming to Iowa City. The Vikings have wins over Evergreen State and George Fox this season, but dropped its season-opener to Oregon State.

The game between the Hawkeyes and the Vikings is scheduled to tip off at 6 p.m. and will air on BTN+.