IOWA CITY — Fifteen minutes into its first-round NIT game with Indiana State, the Iowa offense had problems.
The Hawkeyes trailed by eight and were stagnant. Iowa missed 15 of its first 20 shots and were in danger of losing a raucous sellout crowd at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
Coach Fran McCaffery implored the offense to start running, and junior Devyn Marble listened. He pushed the ball, rallied his teammates and paced Iowa to a blazing 68-52 win Wednesday night. The Hawkeyes (22-12) now advance to the NIT second round against Stony Brook, which upset UMass 71-58. Iowa will host the Seawolves (25-7) at 8:30 p.m. Friday (ESPNU).
Marble was instrumental in Iowa’s offensive rally late in the first half. He hit a jumper to bring the Hawkeyes within three points. On Iowa’s next possession, he tossed a deep alley oop pass to Aaron White, who dunked to cut Iowa’s deficit to 28-27. Marble threw one more first-half oop to Gabe Olaseni, who slammed it to put Iowa ahead 31-30 at halftime.
“Coach Fran wanted us to get out in transition a lot more,” Marble said. “He felt like we weren’t running and pushing enough. He was correct. I just told our guys to keep running.”
Marble scored a game-high 24 points with 14 after halftime. He pushed Iowa ahead 37-32 with a layup, then followed with a steal at mid-court and a slam to put Iowa up 39-32. He finished with six assists, five rebounds and four steals and only one turnover in 34 minutes.
“He’s good,” said Indiana State coach Greg Lansing, a former Iowa assistant from 1999-2006. “He handles the ball, and you don’t see many point guards that size. He plays a little different than his dad. He’s so good with the ball in his hands, and he’s unselfish, too. He gets to the basket.”
Marble needed to be good. Starting point guard Mike Gesell limped with a nagging stress reaction in his right foot and played only 14 minutes. After the game McCaffery said he is “very concerned” about Gesell’s health going forward. Gesell missed four games with the foot problem, then played two games last week in the Big Ten Tournament plus last night’s game.
Marble stayed mostly at the point to compensate for Gesell and Anthony Clemmons, who was erratic with three turnovers in six minutes.
“For me, playing point guard, I’m just a primary ball handler,” Marble said. “It’s not like it’s a burden or anything like that. I’m trying to play point guard, even when I’m at the two. It’s just I don’t bring the ball up. That’s the only difference. It doesn’t bother me at all. I’m comfortable. I play well with the ball in my hands. I can pick my spots I can create for others like I did today and stuff like that. Plus it’s harder for the opposing guards to score on me because I’m bigger and longer and stuff like that and vice versa.”
“That’s the type of player that he is,” Iowa senior Eric May said. “He does it all. He’s long, he’s solid with the ball. To have him out there is huge. He’s playing like a big-time player and we all appreciate it because he gets us all involved.”
Iowa’s Aaron White put up a double-double for Iowa with 11 points and 13 rebounds. Melsahn Basabe added nine points and eight rebounds. The Hawkeyes outrebounded the Sycamores 42-27.
Lansing, a Harlan native, received a nice ovation from the Iowa crowd when he was introduced. He said Iowa deserved to play in the NCAA tournament and showed it last night.
“I think they are as well-coached as anybody we’ve played, and they didn’t play that well tonight, otherwise it would have been a lot worse there in the second half,” Lansing said. “But they are the type of team that can win this thing, and with everybody coming back other than May, they have a very bright future.”
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