IOWA CITY — Melsahn Basabe’s smile returned wide and true. The anguish was gone and the swagger was back.
The Iowa sophomore forward finally shrugged off an inexplicable four-game slide to post a double-double for the Hawkeyes (5-3) in a 75-54 win against Brown on Saturday. Basabe scored 14 points, grabbed 10 rebounds and was active in his 24 minutes.
It was a pleasant return to freshmanville for Basabe, who averaged 11 points and 6.8 rebounds a game last season.
“I was saying before the little four-game stretch, I felt like it was forever,” Basabe said. “I kind of mentally blocked myself I think.”
“Now that I look back on it, it’s only been two or three weeks. Not to say that all the sudden I’m on top of the world, but the thing is you’ve got to stay mentally involved. I’m a man of God and I have faith and I feel like anything God does, he does it for a reason. So just from dealing with a few rough games, it makes me appreciate every opportunity. It makes me want rebounds more, makes me appreciate every shot and basically just value everything on the court.”
Basabe had scored only two points in each of Iowa’s last four games, which consisted of three losses and a sluggish win. He had bulked up in the offseason, and it was affecting his legs. So he said he ran before, during and after practice to get himself “as tired as possible” and lose weight.
Iowa Coach Fran McCaffery said Friday part of Basabe’s problems stemmed from few scoring opportunities from the point guard. There was a concerted effort to get Basabe the ball, and he didn’t disappoint.
Basabe took eight shots and scored six points by halftime. Even more encouraging for Iowa was his six rebounds, nearly half his total from the previous five games combined.
His swagger returned in a big way early in the second half. Basabe missed an inside shot near the basket, but Iowa senior Matt Gatens took the rebound and passed it back to Basabe, who then powered it down for a dunk. That play was part of a 10-3 Iowa run that extended the Hawkeyes’ lead to 21 points.
“That was good pass by Matt,” Basabe said. “I got hops. You guys might have forgot about it. I haven’t been dunking the last three games, so just to let you know I do go upstairs.”
“Those are plays we need to make,” Gatens said. “Take it up strong and finish on guys like that. That’s the type of plays he was making last year at times and he’s improved. He’s got an even better body this year than last year and can do stuff like that.”
Basabe’s play spurred the rest of the team. The Hawkeyes out-rebounded Brown 56-37 and held the Bears to 4-of-22 from 3-point range. Seven different players scored at least eight points. Freshman Aaron White had nine points and nine rebounds. Zach McCabe had nine points and seven rebounds.
Perhaps most impressively, Devyn Marble played 23 minutes at multiple guard positions and scored 11 points, grabbed seven rebounds, had four assists, three steals and no turnovers.
“He was seemingly involved in every play,” McCaffery said. “Defensively he was great. He was on the glass. He made shots. He played smart. He made good decisions with the ball. He worked without the ball. I thought he was great today.”
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