Earlier in the day, Fran McCaffery and his staff beat out Seton Hall on the recruiting trail and scored a commitment from Newark, NJ forward Ladji Dembele.
A few hours later he let his current players do some scoring of their own.
Kris Murray poured in a game-high 29 points and pulled down 11 rebounds while Tony Perkins added 18 points and five assists to help Iowa (3-0) to an impressive 83-67 victory over the Pirates (2-1) in New Jersey on Wednesday night.
Leading by 12 at the break (34-22), the Hawkeyes came out flat to start the second half, turning the ball over twice in a little over a minute and seeing their lead shrink to six at 34-28 with 18:53 to go. Following a timeout where I’m sure Fran didn’t yell at his team at all, Murray and Perkins scored the next five points to put Iowa back up by double digits (11) by the 18 minute mark.
A suddenly up-and-down offensive affair saw the Hawkeyes’ lead fluctuate between five and ten points for the next 11+ minutes. Seton Hall attempted to make a final run entering the final six minutes of play, but a trademark Connor McCaffery dagger three-pointer—his only basket of the night—pushed Iowa back up 11 with 5:44 left and the Pirates never got within nine points the rest of the way.
Following a low-scoring opening twenty minutes that could only make Kirk Ferentz blush, the Hawkeyes erupted for 49 points in the second frame but not via the long range shooting we’ve grown accustomed to seeing under McCaffery’s teams. Iowa shot just 5-16 from beyond the arc on the day, with three of the makes by Murray.
Instead, Iowa scored almost at will inside the free throw line via layups and put-backs—thanks in large part to Filip Rebraca, who was an absolute terror within ten feet of the hoop all night long. The forward was seemingly everywhere on both ends of the floor, filling the box score with 10 points, 11 rebounds, four blocks and two steals. On shots he didn’t block, the big man routinely affected normally easy finishes at the net by Pirate players causing a few misses within a few feet of the hoop.
Rebraca also added a 4/5 performance from the free-throw line—a small part of what was an impressive 28/33 performance for the Hawkeyes from the charity stripe throughout the night. Iowa went 19/21 from the line in the second half and made 11 free throws in a row at one point stretching from the 9:00 mark until a Perkins miss with 00:51 remaining in the game. By then the Hawkeyes were up 82-67 and the Prudential Center crowd had begun filing out into the cold east coast night.
For the most part the first half was. . .something. Iowa slept walk to start the game, missing what felt like approximately 43 layups and entered the first TV timeout trailing 10-2. Murray warmed up, though, scoring 12 points over the next eight minutes and spurring a 19-3 Hawkeyes run capped off by a Patrick McCaffery three-pointer with 7:57 to go before the break.
Through the rest of the half some of the Hawkeyes not named Murray finally got going offensively and Iowa stretched its lead to 34-20 on a Perkins layup late in the first period, though Tony was given a ridiculous technical foul for yelling in the direction of the crowd immediately following the lay-in. As it turns out, he may have had pretty good reason to be fired up then:
Tony Perkins said he got called "a word" he didn't like by a Seton Hall fan, then yelled "and-one!" a second time toward the fan ... and that's what got him the technical foul.— Chad Leistikow (@ChadLeistikow) November 17, 2022
Perkins came on late in the opening half, scoring five points to go with three assists and three steals but Murray led all scorers at the break with 16 points along with five rebounds.
The Pirates shot just 20% on 6/30 shooting in the opening 20 minutes. Iowa didn’t shoot that much better from the field (11/33) but committed only three turnovers (versus 12 by the Pirates, which led to a 13-0 Iowa edge in points off turnovers) and held Seton Hall to just two field goals over the final 13:31 to send the good guys into halftime with a 34-22 lead.
It remains to be seen how good this Seton Hall team will end up being come March, especially with a bunch of transfers and a first-year head coach at the helm. But this was still a mighty impressive win for Iowa which showed it could go on the road against a good Power Five program, not play well offensively for half a game, and still be in control all game.
This was also a big night for Murray and Perkins. There has been quite a bit of deserved hype for the two entering the season but you can only squeeze so much from blowout wins against the likes of North Carolina A&T and Bethune-Cookman.
After seeing the duo dominate against good Power Five competition it's clear now that Mr. Perkins is very much for real and is on course to be one of the best guards of the McCaffery era. And as for Murray, he’s right on track to be just about as good as his brother who, in case you weren’t paying attention, is currently making a lot of money in the NBA.
This was a great first step on what will be an intense few weeks for Iowa and the run is just beginning for what is shaping up to be another good, fun Fran McCaffery team.
All in all, it was a good day for Iowa basketball on the recruiting trail, a good day for Iowa basketball on the court, and a GREAT day to be a Hawkeye.