DES MOINES — Northern Iowa Coach Ben Jacobson is bold, direct and, apparently, captain obvious.
Jacobson was asked what Iowa junior guard Devyn Marble "was doing so well" against his Panthers on Saturday afternoon. Jacobson shot back with an easy and appropriate answer.
“Everything. Does that fit?" Jacobson asked with a chuckle. "He had a good game."
Marble scored 30 points — a Wells Fargo Arena record for Division I basketball — in an 80-73 Iowa win at the inaugural Big 4 Classic. Marble scored in multiple ways, from hitting four 3-pointers to knocking down 14 of 19 free throws. He played 37 minutes, dished two assists, blocked two shots and had only one turnover.
It was a complete performance, and it completely broke down UNI's defense.
"I would guess, having watched him play a lot, it appears in most games he’s not as quick to shoot 3-point shots as he was early in this game," Jacobson said. "Give him credit for rising up and knocking those in.
"Once that happened, I’m sure he felt like he was going to have a very good basketball game. He was good in all areas."
Marble scored Iowa's first five points, then extended the Hawkeyes' lead from five points to nine midway through the first half. He drilled a pair of 3-pointers inside of three possessions to give Iowa an 11-point lead. Then he drained a pair of free throws after UNI had closed Iowa's lead to seven.
In the second half Marble scored 17 points, including 10 from the free-throw line.
"He was scoring at such an efficient rate (Saturday), and that’s what we need out of him," said Iowa guard Mike Gesell, who scored a career-high 23 points. "He’s a very good scorer and when he gets rolling, it’s tough to stop him.
"He’s definitely capable of (dominating). He’s a tremendous player, there’s no question of that. I would say he’s capable of doing that every night. It’s just the mentality that he’s got to bring it. He can definitely do it."
Gesell was equally as impressive, especially from 3-point range. He knocked down 4-of-6 3-point attempts, including two on back-to-back first-half possessions that gave Iowa a lead it would not relinquish.
Gesell, Marble and sophomore Josh Oglesby combined for 59 points and 10 3-pointers. They were needed to compensate for an ineffective post offense, and Iowa was outscored 48-10 in the paint. But Iowa won the rebounding battle and drilled 12-of-25 3-point attempts, while UNI sank only 3 of 16.
After Iowa took a 13-point lead with 2:30 left, UNI's Jake Koch hit a 3-pointer to bring the Panthers within 10. UNI (6-4) scored on six straight possessions, but Iowa sank at least one free throw on its last seven trips to never allow the Panthers to catch up.
"I think toward the end, when guys saw they were getting layups, we had to give up something," Marble said. "We didn’t want to give them 3s; that’s what they want to do. We were up, we were making our free throws, we were trying to keep them in front of us, but it was a little challenging trying not to foul and that’s why they were making easy layups."
Iowa (9-2) registered only five fast-break points, but the Hawkeyes moved so quickly up the court and applied enough pressure to UNI's interior defense that it opened up the perimeter for 3-point attempts and jump shots.
"We’re a real relentless offensive team," said Marble, who averages 15.1 points a game. "I wouldn’t want to have to guard us. We keep pushing it in transition.
“We really try to keep the pressure on you as far as when you do score, us coming right back down and have that ability to score right on top of you. I think we’ve got to keep that up even when we get into Big Ten play and also get the stops we’ve been getting on defensive end. We’ve been playing really well defensively. We’ve been rebounding. We’ve just got to continue playing the way we’ve been playing."
UNI guard Deon Mitchell scored 23 points while forward Seth Tuttle scored 18 points and grabbed nine rebounds.