BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – Kris Murray expected more in Iowa’s NCAA tourney opener.
The Hawkeye junior, named to two All-American teams earlier this week, had hopes of leading Iowa on to its first Sweet 16 appearance since 1999.
Instead, Murray saw his season end with an 83-75 opening-round setback to Auburn on Thursday night at Legacy Arena.
A smothering Tigers defense ended the Hawkeyes’ 19-14 season and Murray dealt with plenty of pressure from start to finish.
Auburn limited the Hawkeyes’ leading scorer and rebounder to 15 points – a little more than five below his average – on 5-of-18 shooting from the field.
“They did a good job of getting a lot of bodies on me, switching things up,” Murray said. “It wasn’t anything I hadn’t seen before, but it was a tough night.”
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That pretty much described how things went much of the night for the Hawkeyes, who toiled at times with the athleticism of an Auburn team that enjoyed a 26-8 edge in fast-break points and held Iowa to 41.2% shooting.
Murray, held to four first-half points, felt Iowa was getting decent looks at the basket.
“But, they didn’t start falling until the second half,” Murray said. “We had good looks, but they just weren’t dropping early. We did a decent job of getting ourselves back in the game, but we just couldn’t finish things off.”
Murray did lead Iowa with nine rebounds that netted a 14-8 edge on the offensive glass that helped the Hawkeyes to a 14-8 edge in second-chance points.
“It’s just a tough way to end. We didn’t want it to end this soon,” Murray said. “It’s never easy, that last game of the season.”
Murray has another decision to make as well.
He contemplated an early exit a year ago and plans to think through that possibility again, but said Thursday wasn’t the time to make that call.
“We’ll see over the next few weeks,” he said. “I need some time.”