In the Big Ten Conference almost no win is going to come easy and it doesn’t get any easier when you lose a starter to injury in the opening minutes. There were struggles for Iowa with Connor McCaffery missing a majority of the game, but the Hawkeyes “next man up” mentality helped earn them the gritty win against Rutgers.
“When we had Connor go out, he’s a huge part of our group,” said Iowa senior Luka Garza. “For other guys to step up, Ahron Ulis, Tony Perkins, Keegan Murray, Jack Nunge. When you have guys like that, it’s huge for the starter’s confidence knowing that if something happens they got guys behind them to take care of them. I’m really proud of our guys.”
Freshman forward Keegan Murray was asked to do a lot for Iowa, playing the final 18 minutes of the game, but Murray was ready to make an impact. Murray was able to post a 14 point, 9 rebound, 3 steal, and 3 block stat line in the win over the Scarlet Knights.
“I just think competing is my favorite thing in the world,” said Murray. “If I can do anything to make our team win, it’s satisfying to me. Anything that can help our team win, I want to do.”
A competitive drive that impressed his senior teammate.
“The moment he stepped on campus you could tell, this guy’s not a freshman,” said Garza. “Mentally, he has that mentality like an experienced guy. He’s so confident when he walks on the court. He works hard. He’s one of those guys you always see in the gym. It’s not surprising at all. This guy comes in every single day with energy, gets our group second chances, gets to the glass and it speaks volumes. That’s just the type of player he is and we’re just very lucky to have a guy like him on our roster.”
It wasn’t just Murray who stepped up, freshman point guard Ahron Ulis played the most meaningful minutes of his young collegiate career and came through for his team, after Connor McCaffery went out with a right ankle injury and C.J. Fredrick found himself in foul trouble.
“He’s been a great point guard in practice and in scout team,” said Murray. “I knew he would be ready when his name was called. He showed it today. He’s a great point guard, great pace, great rhythm. He found open guys and made great plays. He was a big contribution to our win today.”
Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery played 11 guys during the two point win against Rutgers on Sunday. The six players off the bench, combined for a +17 in the +/- column on the stat sheet.
“When you can play 11 guys and they’re all contributing and you win a two point game, that says a lot about your team,” said coach McCaffery.
It’s a brand of basketball that’s rewarding for the entire team. Now, they look towin their third straight Big Ten game on Thursday against the Maryland Terrapins. Coach McCaffery says both Connor McCaffery and Joe Toussaint will be expected to play.