Richmond raves about Iowa forward Keegan Murray ahead of NCAA Tournament matchup

The Spiders admitted they haven’t played a player of Murray’s caliber yet this season.


Gabby Drees

Richmond head coach Chris Mooney speaks during a press conference at KeyBank Center in Buffalo, N.Y., on Wednesday, March 16, 2022. “This is such an extraordinary accomplishment for a team.” The Iowa Hawkeyes face the Richmond Spiders at the first round of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship Tournament on Thursday, March 17, 2022.

Robert Read, Pregame Editor

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Richmond guard Jacob Gilyard took a moment to think on Wednesday after being asked if the Spiders had played a team like the Hawkeyes in the Atlantic 10. Gilyard eventually answered no — mostly because of Iowa forward Keegan Murray.

“I would say they don’t really compare to anybody,” Gilyard said. “I mean, they’ve got an All American. We haven’t played anybody that has that type of player. It’s going to be tough for us.”

Murray, an Associated Press first-team All-American, is the only player in the country to average 23 or more points, eight or more rebounds, and two or more blocks per game this season. The Spiders are plenty familiar with the sophomore forward. Darius Stokes, a former Hawkeye men’s basketball player, is in his first year as Richmond’s video coordinator. The university’s athletic director, John Hart, is a former Iowa football player. On road trips throughout the season, those two alums would turn Iowa games on and the team would see Murray play.

When No. 12 seed Richmond found out it was playing No. 5 seed Iowa, the Big Ten Tournament champions, head coach Chris Mooney started watching Hawkeye film and saw more of Murray.

Mooney didn’t like what he saw.

“He is even better than I thought he was,” Mooney said.

He can score in so many ways. He is so fluid, athletic, calm, incredibly in control. He is tremendous. He’s a great player. If you average 23 points per game, I’m not sure that anybody has guarded you very well in that conference. He is an amazing player and someone that will take the whole team to defend and to make sure that we make him make as hard of shots as possible, which he is capable of, but still want to make them as hard as possible.”

Iowa forward Keegan Murray shoots the ball during a practice at KeyBank Center in Buffalo, N.Y., on Wednesday, March 16, 2022. The Iowa Hawkeyes face the Richmond Spiders at the first round of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship Tournament on Thursday, March 17, 2022. (Gabby Drees)

“His energy, you can see just sort of ignites them a little bit,” Richmond forward Grant Golden added. “I think with players like that, obviously, the saying is, ‘I don’t know if you can stop them, you can only hope to contain them.’ So hopefully we can just go out there and make everything tough for him and make him earn every basket that he gets.”

Gilyard and Golden also mentioned Iowa point guard Jordan Bohannon (for his shooting ability) and forward Kris Murray (for his shooting and ability to make plays off the dribble) as players that have been highlighted on the scouting report.

The Spiders are 10.5-point underdogs heading into Thursday’s game, which tips off at 2:10 p.m. CT and will air on truTV. But Richmond’s players, despite an overwhelming matchup, know a thing or two about overcoming challenges. The last time the Spiders were positioned to make a March Madness appearance was two years ago, but the NCAA Tournament was canceled in the early stages of the pandemic. A majority of that Richmond team is still together, though. Similar to Bohannon sticking around with the Hawkeyes, the Spiders have six players on their roster that have used an extra year of eligibility, wanting to take another run at March Madness.

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Led by a group of four players that have scored at least 1,000 points in their career, Richmond won four games in four days to win the Atlantic 10 Tournament and earn a bid to the NCAA Tournament. The Spiders finally get their moment in “The Big Dance.”

That moment just so happens to come against an Iowa team that has won 12 of its last 14 games and is fresh off a Big Ten Tournament title.

“I think in the last two months, they’ve probably been one of the top five teams analytically,” said Gilyard, the NCAA’s all-time leader in steals. “They’re a really good team. We’re excited to be able to play against a Big Ten team. Doesn’t really matter who it is. To be in the tournament, all you have to do is win one game. We’re going to take it one game at a time and see where we go.”