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Andy Wittry | NCAA.com | December 15, 2021

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Twenty-four points, almost nine rebounds and more than one and a half assists and blocks per game.

Twenty-two points, eight rebounds, more than two blocks and almost one and half assists per game.

Those two statistical averages belong to 2021 Naismith Award winner Luka Garza and Iowa's current leading scorer, sophomore Keegan Murray, respectively.

One season after Garza claimed the sport's top individual honors amid a season in which the Hawkeyes earned a No. 2 seed in the NCAA tournament, Murray, a 6-8 forward, is nearly matching Garza's production one-third of the way through the 2021-22 campaign.

The following table shows the two players' averages, with Murray's stats current through Dec. 12. Offensive rating, labeled "ORTG" in the table below, is courtesy of kenpom.com. It's a "measure of personal offensive efficiency," according to Ken Pomeroy. For teams, the national average is 101.0 so far this season, down from last season's average of 102.2

Scroll to the right to view the complete table.

player points rebounds assists blocks steals FG% 2p% 3p% ORtg
Luka Garza ('21) 24.1 8.7 1.7 1.6 0.7 .553 .581 .440 123.9
Keegan Murray ('22) 22.2 7.9 1.3 2.2 1.6 .548 .646 .308 130.4

Here's how Murray has become one of men's basketball's greatest breakout players this season.

He's become a more efficient shooter on a more efficient shot selection

Through Dec. 14, 86.7 percent of Murray's shots have come at the rim or behind the arc, including 57.8 percent of his shots coming at the rim on layups or dunks, according to hoop-math.com. That's a significant increase from his freshman season, when less than half of his attempts were at the rim (47 percent of his attempts) and roughly a third of his shots were 3s (32.5 percent of his attempts), even though he wasn't an efficient 3-point shooter, with just a 29.6 3-point percentage.

On a percentage basis, Murray is taking more efficient shots, with more layups and dunks, and fewer 2-point jumpers and 3-pointers. Multiple times in a road win at Virginia, Murray found himself being guarded by a much smaller player, such as 5-10 Kihei Clark or 6-5 Taine Murray, and Keegan Murray quickly went to work for an efficient post finish.

Using his frame and footwork against Taine Murray, Keegan Murray was able to gain position outside the lane, ward off a help-side defender with a pass fake and then get his desired shot with his right hand by spinning over his left shoulder. You can watch the play below.

The table below shows how this season, Murray has taken a higher percentage of higher-percentage shots (layups, dunks) and made more of them. The data below comes from hoop-math.com.

season % of shots at rim FG% at rim % of shots 2-pt jumpers FG% on 2-pt jumpers % of shots Threes 3-pt %
2020-21 47.0% 64.1% 20.5% 52.9% 32.5% 29.6%
2021-22 57.8% 71.8% 13.3% 33.3% 28.9% 30.8%

While Murray and Iowa could stand to benefit from his 3-point percentage climbing by even three or four percentage points, he's able to confidently step into an open three.

When teammate Tony Perkins cut to the basket after a screen from Murray, Murray stepped out to the 3-point line and hit a 3 from a few steps behind the line before Virginia's Kadin Shedrick was able to close out on him. You can watch the play below.

Murray is certainly capable of hitting 2-point jumpers, too. His first shot in a recent loss to Illinois came on the right wing, where he screened for teammate Patrick McCaffery, then flared out to the 3-point line. His defender, Illinois' Coleman Hawkins, briefly lost track of Murray and Murray was able to get a step on him after a pump fake.

While Murray's 3-point percentage has dipped to nearly 30 percent after four consecutive 1-fer games — you've probably heard of "0-fer," so we're just adding one made shot to the phrase — he has already made 12 3-pointers in nine games after making 16 in 31 games last season, so opponents have to show at least some respect to the threat of Murray's outside jumper, which is why Hawkins bit on the fake.

After a nice crossover dribble, Murray pulled up for a long, fadeaway 2-point jumper — among the more inefficient shots in the sport, when painting with a broad brush — and the Iowa sophomore swished it. Click on the video below to watch the sequence.

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Murray is Iowa's leading scorer and late-game play designs show it

Trailing Illinois by 9 points with 3:30 remaining, Iowa ran a set for Murray as the Hawkeyes faced a do-or-die stretch to try to pull off the comeback win. Murray and teammate Filip Rebraca set a pair of screens for guard Tony Perkins, then Murray faked to the left corner before running above the break off another screen from Rebraca. Illinois' Da'Monte Williams got lost in the screen and Murray sank a catch-and-shoot 3 to cut Illinois' lead to 6.

You can watch the play below.

It was his only made 3-pointer of the game, but Murray has made at least one 3-pointers in eight of the first nine games he's played and that play also showed Murray's growth from being Iowa's fifth-leading scorer and only a rare starter last season to a player who Iowa now draws plays for in crunch time this season.

About a minute later — shortly after Murray stole a cross-court pass and slammed home a dunk in transition — Iowa ran almost the exact same play, with Murray using a screen from Rebraca on the left wing. Murray got past the Illinois defender guarding him, Coleman Hawkins, and had Kofi Cockburn on his heels, so Murray drove to the lane, made a shot off the backboard and drew the foul to complete the 3-point play.

The Hawkeyes went back to Murray on their next possession out of a sideline out-of-bounds play, where Ahron Ulis set a back screen for Murray, who caught the inbounds across the floor near the right corner, and the rest of his teammates cleared out. Murray drew another foul.

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Free throws are called that for a reason

Murray is averaging 5.4 free throw attempts per game, which if maintained over the course of the season would be in line with some of the program's best low-post scorers in the last decade: Aaron White (7.0 attempts per game in 2015, 6.8 in 2013), Garza (6.4 in 2021, 6.3 in 2020), Tyler Cook (6.1 in 2019, 5.5 in 2018) and Roy Devyn Marble (6.0 in 2014).

On this second-half possession at Virginia, Murray was in the right corner when his teammate Jordan Bohannon drew Murray's defender, Jayden Gardner, 6-6, and when Bohannon kicked the ball to Murray, Murray took three powerful dribbles to the lane, made the basket and drew a foul, in yet another example of Murray capitalizing against a smaller defender.

On a percentage basis, Murray is attempting roughly 3.6 free throw attempts for every 10 field goal attempts, per kenpom.com, and once he's at the stripe, he's making 81.6 percent of his attempts.

Murray is often the one who inbounds the ball for Iowa and he runs the floor in transition, and at 6-8 and 215 pounds, he can be a load to deal with, which is why he averages 6.3 fouls drawn per 40 minutes, per kenpom.com. That ranks 50th nationally and it's a similar mark as other standout bigs in the Big Ten, such as Indiana's Trayce Jackson-Davis (6.3 per 40 minutes) and Purdue's Trevion Williams (6.2).

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