Perhaps no victory symbolized Iowa’s always-inconsistent, yet always-interesting season quite like the Hawkeyes’ 63-59 home victory against Minnesota on Feb. 1.
Iowa led by 12 midway through the first half. Minnesota led by 10 midway through the second half. Iowa dominated in the paint (30-10) and on the fast break (15-0) but the Gophers crushed the Hawkeyes for 10 3-pointers and had 17 assists on 20 baskets.
“I would say that we were phenomenally tough and it shows you that we’re capable of playing like that on a regular basis,” Iowa Coach Fran McCaffery said.
Iowa sprinted to a 15-3 lead in the game’s first 11 minutes. The Hawkeyes ramped up defensively and forced eight Gopher turnovers.
Minnesota battled back, holding Iowa to one field goal in a six-minute stretch and took a 27-24 halftime lead. The Gophers extended it to 45-35 with 12:20 left in the game. Iowa rallied with nine straight points and it was nip-and-tuck until the game’s final two minutes.
Iowa trailed 59-54 with 2:26 left in the game. Sophomore guard Devyn Marble, who at that time rarely shot 3-pointers, was open at the top of the key and drilled a 3-pointer to cut Iowa’s deficit to two points.
“When I get my feet set underneath me, they’re money,” Marble said. “It’s not one of my favorite shots, but I have confidence when I shoot it.
“I knew it was a good time to take it, a momentum changer. So I stepped in and knocked it down.”
On Minnesota’s next possession. Andre Hollins missed an open 3-point attempt and Iowa once again put the ball in Marble’s hands. Marble drove past Hollins and charged toward 6-foot-11 post Ralph Sampson III. The 6-6 Marble dunked over Sampson to tie the game with 1:37 left.
Point guard Bryce Cartwright stole the ball from Sampson on Minnesota’s next possession and was fouled. Cartwright sank two free throws to put Iowa in the lead. The Hawkeyes clinched the victory when Marble found Gatens under the basket for a layup with eight seconds left.
Marble scored 12 points but grabbed five rebounds and delivered with a key 3-pointer, dunk and assist in the clutch for Iowa.
“He’s a playmaker,” McCaffery said. “He’s really, I think, becoming somebody that really understands what that situation was and how to be successful possession by possession.”
The win came three days after Iowa had given up 103 points to Indiana in a dreadful defensive performance. The Hoosiers scored 58 points in the paint and shot 55 percent from the field. Iowa emphasized defensive intensity against the Gophers, and it showed by forcing 16 turnovers.
The win completed a season sweep of the Gophers for the first time since 2007.
“I don’t go on the top floor too often,” said Marble as part of the season’s best quote. “I had a business meeting tonight, and I took care of business.”
“Well that was certainly one to the men of Iowa,” Minnesota Coach Tubby Smith said. “They certainly hung in there and got the win. They made some clutch plays down the stretch, and we didn’t.”
“It’s a big step for us to beat a team of this caliber twice a team that is that athletic has been playing that well,” McCaffery said. “So now for us the challenge continues. Where do we go from here?”
Iowa ended a six-game losing streak to the Gophers in a 64-62 win at Williams Arena on Jan. 4. Minnesota led by 11 points with 3:23 left in the first half, but Iowa closed with a 10-0 run to cut its halftime deficit to 32-31. The Hawkeyes led by seven points with 39 seconds left before the Gophers closed within two points and missed the game-tying shot at the buzzer. Iowa’s win ended a six-game losing streak to Minnesota, the longest since a nine-game slide from 1935 through 1940.
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