IOWA CITY — In the middle of a heavily scrutinized slump, Iowa junior Devyn Marble walked into an interview room Friday smiling and surprisingly relaxed.
There’s pressure all right for the all-everything guard who has struggled in Big Ten play. But there’s also opportunity, and a chance to put his performances in perspective.
“Everybody’s thinking I’m about to die or something,” Marble said. “It’s just one of those situations. I’ve had a rough month. I’m just trying to look at the positive end of it and just get back on track.”
Marble’s on-court collapse has run concurrent to his team’s inability to win close games this year. He was 1-of-10 at Wisconsin in a double-overtime loss. He missed both shots and produced a critical turnover in the final moments of a three-point defeat at Minnesota. He was 2-of-11 and missed the final shot in an overtime loss at Purdue.
The Hawkeyes (14-9, 3-7 Big Ten) will go as far as Marble takes them, and his teammates respect that. Despite the struggles, they still consider him an important piece of the offense late in games.
“We have our guys that we look to, like Dev,” Iowa junior Zach McCabe said. “We have those guys that can close it out. I think we just haven’t been able to. I still think that we can.”
Most important to Marble, he has his teammates’ respect and trust.
“They still have confidence in me. If they didn’t have confidence in me you wouldn’t see them pass me the ball,” he said with a laugh. “I do love them for that, making sure that they do try to get me going. We still have to find a way to win so that’s the most important key and task.”
Getting Marble on track is important but secondary to the big picture. The Hawkeyes have lost four Big Ten games where they’ve led in the final 1 minute, 5 seconds. In two other league defeats, Iowa was within four points of its opponent in the final 1:30.
The potential for an NCAA tournament bid is still possible, but the margin of error is slight. Including today’s game against Northwestern (13-10, 4-6 Big Ten) and counting Nebraska twice, Iowa’s final eight opponents have a combined league record of 29-51. Only Minnesota (18) and Indiana (1) are ranked. As frustration continues to mount in the Iowa locker room, so does optimism.
“I wouldn’t say it’s desperation, it’s more of urgency,” McCabe said. “We’ve had chances to close out games. We just have to play with more urgency, just not put ourselves in situations where we’re at the end of the game where we give up a turnover.”
That’s where Marble comes in. He’s taking extra shots and watching more videos. He said his shot has been a little more flat lately and he’s “getting back to the basics.”
It’s also about having fun again, too.
“You just gotta smile sometimes,” Marble said. “You gotta overcome adversity. It happens to the best of us. We’ve just got to find our way of getting over the hump. That’s what I’m doing right now.
“I’ve never been through nothing like this. You’ve got to be challenged somewhere. This is my challenge, my life right now, trying to get wins and trying to get back focused. I’m just taking it on as a challenge.”