IOWA CITY — The first stat in the season box score is “gp-gs.” That’s sports shorthand for “games played-games started.” For junior forward Melsahn Basabe, that read 20-0 until Thursday night.
The whole starting concept isn’t a big deal for Basabe. The 6-foot-7, 228-pounder sees it as an “administrative decision.”
“Honestly guys, I really don’t get caught up in that,” Basabe said. “I get caught up in the game and having fun and competing and battling. I trust my coaches. I listen to them and take the information they give to me and use it to my advantage. And I let them make all those administrative decisions and whatever’s going down, I’m totally with.”
Thursday night in Iowa’s 76-67 victory over Penn State at Carver-Hawkeye Arena, credit Iowa coach Fran McCaffery with the correct administrative decision.
Basabe made his first start and responded with 10 points and 10 rebounds, the 10th double-double of his career and Iowa’s third this season (forward Aaron White has the other two).
Basabe said it wasn’t a big deal, but he did know that he started the first 52 games of his college career.
“I appreciated that coach wanted me to start and I wanted to bring energy,” said Basabe, who’s scored in double figures in four of Iowa’s last six games.
Given Basabe’s recent oomph, McCaffery knew he wanted him in the starting lineup, but he didn’t know who he would replace until the last minute before lineups were turned.
Freshman guard Anthony Clemmons, who’s struggled recently, went to the bench. He responded with eight points in 14 minutes.
“They wanted me to bring energy off the bench and give Mike [Gesell] a shot at the point,” Clemmons said. “It was a lot of stress relief. Coming off the bench, all I thought about was giving my team a boost.”
So, everything worked Thursday night, granted it was against the last-place team in the Big Ten. The Nittany Lions fell to 0-9 in league play. So yes, it was a good night to break in a new lineup.
“Melsahn Basabe was terrific,” PSU coach Pat Chambers said. “He’s playing really well, that’s probably why they started him tonight. The last four or five games, he’s been a beast. He played all over the glass. He was aggressive and dunking everything. He’s playing great basketball.”
At 3-5 in the Big Ten, the Hawkeyes face a three-game critical stretch that goes at Minnesota on Sunday, at Wisconsin on Wednesday and then Northwestern at Carver-Hawkeye next Saturday.
McCaffery’s plan right now is to go forward with Thursday’s lineup, which included Basabe, center Adam Woodbury, forwards Aaron White and Devyn Marble and point guard Gesell.
That “gp-gs” will at least go to 20-2 and beyond for Basabe, who drew a technical foul for a taunt after a first-half dunk.
“He’s been very efficient,” McCaffery said. “He makes his free throws. He sticks his nose in the glass. He gives you a low-post presence. And defensively he’s just so far ahead of where he used to be.
“He used to hurt us defensively. Well, he was in the wrong place a lot. That’s why he was fouling. Now, he’s in the right place. He’s seeing the game and affecting the game at both ends. What you’re seeing is a guy who has more confidence in himself.”