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Who we should thank for Trey Murphy III’s recent turnaround: His mom

trey murphy uva louisville
Trey Murphy III with the finish at the rim. Photo courtesy Atlantic Coast Conference.

It’s one thing when your coach is barking at you. What lit a fire under Trey Murphy III was hearing it from his mom.

“She’s one of those moms that’s, like, super-biased, and she’s like, You played well, even when I know I didn’t play well. But after the N.C. State game, she said to me, Yeah, you sucked. I was like, I can’t have that happen, so I’ve got to pick this up,” Murphy said after UVA’s 68-58 win at Louisville on Saturday.

Mom, for the win.

Murphy is having a solid season overall, averaging 11.1 points per game, shooting 51.8 percent from the field, 44.6 percent from three.

But he had a vexing couple of games in losses to Duke and N.C. State – getting just two shots from the floor in 36 minutes at Duke, and going 1-of-5 from the floor in 19 minutes in the State game, in which he also fouled out.

Murphy acknowledged after the Louisville game that he had positive reinforcements from teammates, from coach Tony Bennett, that he was thankful for their pushes.

But, mom, man.

“That helped motivate me to get back to what I was doing,” said Murphy, who’s averaged 14.5 points and 6.0 rebounds per in the wake of the, ahem, scouting report from mom.

“I didn’t realize that his mom had told him he was struggling, or something to that extent, so, nothing like a firm word from a mom or dad to straighten you out, if that’s the case, so perhaps that was it,” Bennett said on Monday.

A schematic tweak from Bennett has to be factored in here as well.

Murphy can tend to be three-happy – 59.4 percent of his shots from the floor have come from three-point range, which, actually, OK, he shoots 44.6 percent from there, and he’s the team’s best spot-up guy, averaging 1.213 points per possession on spot-ups, per Synergy Sports.

But he’s also, by far, the team’s best guy off basket cuts – shooting 19-of-22, 86.4 percent, scoring 1.792 points per possession on backdoors, flexes, V cuts.

The tweak from Bennett the past couple of games has had Murphy cutting more from the perimeter into the lane, attacking the rim, using his 6’9” frame in the post.

And it’s paying off. Murphy was 4-of-5 in the paint in the win over Lousville, and hit two other jumpers in the mid-range on turnarounds using his size on smaller defenders.

This should only make him more effective at the three-point line. Defenders conscious of Murphy backdoor or V cutting might leave him a sliver of light at the arc.

And if he’s in the lane more, you might get him to the free-throw line more, which should work out well – Murphy is shooting 91.9 percent at the line, though he’s only put up 37 attempts in 23 games.

“Obviously, teams have played us differently some more switching, some not. We are, he is, continuing to find ways to be effective. He’s being more assertive and just trying to impact the game,” Bennett said. “As a team, I think you grow when you struggle and you say, OK, what can I do to be better and learn from that. I think he has.”

Story by Chris Graham

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