IOWA CITY — It was nothing new for Mike Gesell. He had played hundreds of meaningful games before. This was only an exhibition. But as he made his way out of the lockerroom and onto the court he felt butterflies in his stomach.
When he sat in the back-cushioned chair, highlighted with a yellow tiger hawk, and glanced up at the pregame video montage, the butterflies flapped their wings even faster.
“I definitely had the goosebumps. Just seeing this place, we had a pretty decent crowd too,” Gesell said. “… It’s kind of funny, I never usually get nervous during basketball. All through high school I didn’t really get nervous. Just coming out here, I had a little bit of the butterflies. But once the tip went up I was fine.”
He was more than fine. The Iowa freshman led his team to a 100-54 win over Quincy on Sunday. He finished with a game-high 18 points in 19 minutes of action with only one turnover.
Five of those 18 came in a second-half run that gave the Hawkeyes their largest cushion of the game. The 6-foot freshman nailed one of his three 3s, and followed it up with a pull-up dribble from the elbow to put Iowa up 91-40.
“It’s just kind of who he is,” Iowa Coach Fran McCaffery said. “He doesn’t rattle. He’s going to keep coming after you. He pressures the ball. He makes a mistake, he comes right back and does something good.”
Iowa built the enormous lead by piecing together two gaudy runs. The Hawkeyes started the game on a 22-0 run with its starters on the court. The second unit of Anthony Clemmons, Melsahn Basabe, Eric May, Josh Oglesby and Gabriel Olaseni established a 23-0 run in the middle of the second to blow the doors off an already wide-open game. It also showed off the skill of the Hawkeyes’ other freshman point guard.
“I thought for Clemmons, in particular, I thought he struggled in the first half, was terrific in the second half,” said McCaffery. “And I just said to him at halftime, I said: ‘You’re better than that. Go out and play the way you’re capable of playing.’ And he did. I think that was important for him.”
Clemmons jumped off Basabe’s spark in the second with a 3-pointer and a layup in the midst of the 23-0 run. Oglesby contributed eight points during the run. “It’s funny, but I kind of don’t look at them as the second unit” McCaffery said. “ Because we’ve got Basabe in there. And Olaseni is a sophomore. Eric May is a senior. Been starting off and on for three years. Very experienced group.”
That group and the The Hawkeyes as a whole get to show that experience Nov. 9 when they open the regular season against Texas-Pan American.
The Hawkeyes started Devyn Marble, Zach McCabe, Aaron White and freshmen Mike Gesell and Adam Woodbury against Quincy. Don’t expect changes to the unit.
“You know, probably stay the way it is. But to say it would be like that every game is ‑‑ that remains to be seen, see who is playing well,” McCaffery said.
Eric May started against Creighton. He came off the bench Sunday but still produced. The captain poured in 15 points in 17 minutes on 6 of 10 shooting. He also lead the team with four steals. In one sequence he nailed a 3, then came up with a steal and slammed it home.
Coming off the bench he solidified a strong second unit that propelled the Hawkeyes in the second half. Three of Iowa’s four players in double-digits came off the bench.
Along with May’s 15, Josh Oglesby also had 15, including three 3s after missing his first two attempts. Melsahn Basabe also finished in double figures with 10 points and pulled down four boards to go with three assists. Iowa outscored Quincy 56-23 in bench points.
“If that’s what I gotta do, I have no problem with that. We’re getting wins. If we get the win, that’s what it’s all about,” May said. “I don’t get caught up in starting. That’s a big key is those next few guys off the bench because we sub a lot. It’s important that those guys bring energy.”
Redshirt decision made
With the regular season beginning Friday, McCaffery said after Sunday’s exhibition he had made a decision on resdshirts. He said it would in all likelihood, one player would be redshirted. He had not told the player yet so did not comment on any other specifics.
The Hawkeyes cleared its bench against Quincy. Thirteen players scored for Iowa.