NEW YORK — Devyn Marble is scoring.
Iowa’s junior guard has 97 points in his four NIT games. That’s 24.3 points per game. That’s a lot for any four-game stretch. That’s a lot from someone who averaged 12.6 points in Big Ten play.
Devyn Marble is passing.
Often, and especially down the stretch in Iowa’s 71-60 NIT semifinal victory over Maryland Tuesday night, he got the ball to teammates in the right places at the right times. Maybe the game’s most-important basket was a Zach McCabe jumper with 3:25 left that extended the Hawkeyes’ lead to 63-56. McCabe hadn’t made a shot in over 14 minutes, and had just been reinserted into the game. Marble set the open McCabe up to succeed with a feed, and he did.
Devyn Marble is leading.
“I wouldn’t say our confidence is coming from him individually and we’re all riding it,” said Hawkeye forward Aaron White. “It’s more all of us coming into our roles. We know what we need to do on the floor. Every guy, when they come in they know what their strengths are, they know what their weaknesses are.
“But we do have a leader we can kind of get behind and who is making shots late in the (shot) clock. He’s not turning the ball over. He got nine rebounds in this game.
“I’m just really proud of him.”
This four-game NIT run has been about team wins. But Marble has been the stabilizing force. His days of fading in and out of control and good judgment have faded themselves. It was his assertive play and confidence in his shot that propelled Iowa’s early 11-0 run Tuesday for a lead the Hawkeyes never surrendered.
Marble took twice as many shots as any two teammates combined, but his 16 shots weren’t too many. They were in the proverbial flow of the offense, and they were well-chosen.
Said White: “He feels the game so well. He knows when to pick and choose, he knows when to be aggressive. He knows when you can get in the lane and drop it off for someone else. He reads the step-up guy very well. He reads the help defense very well.
“He’s got a size advantage on a lot of guys playing the point. He’s shooting over guys, he’s shooting the ball with great confidence from the three.”
When your point guard clearly is thinking and acting clearly, it’s amazing how everyone else on the team gains confidence and follows suit. Now, it’s as if when a Hawkeye gets a pass from Marble for a good look at the basket, the recipient is confident himself.
“They’ve been knocking shots down lately, and that’s why I’ve been having confidence to get them the ball,” Marble said. “And they’ve been having confidence to continue to shoot.”
Thursday’s NIT final will pair two wildly different but equally productive guards. Baylor is led — truly led – by 5-foot-10 senior Pierre Jackson. He averages 19.9 points, 7.0 assists, and is a major pain to cover. Marble is the 6-6 former swingman who assumed primary ballhandling duties when Mike Gesell hurt his foot and missed four late-season games.
Whichever of the two plays better Thursday night will probably snip a Madison Square Garden net after the game.
Long-term, you wonder if Iowa Coach Fran McCaffery will go back to putting Marble at the 2-guard spot and rotating Gesell and Anthony Clemmons as the primary point guards next season, or if he’ll decide the Hawkeyes are at their best with Marble running the offense most of the time.
White didn’t advocate either possibility after Tuesday’s game, saying “It’s definitely too early and I haven’t thought about it. You’ve got to look since Mike hurt his foot and Dev being pushed to the point, you’ve got to look at that and see how successful we’ve been.
“Whether he starts at the point or he pushes Sappie (Clemmons) and Mike off the ball on plays, we’ve got multiple guys who can handle the ball in transition. But you definitely have to look at it with the way he’s playing.”
Marble says he doesn’t care, and acted like a question about whether he’d like to keep playing the point next season was the first time the thought had crossed his mind.
“Uhhh, I don’t know,” he said. “It’s something I’ll look at at the end of the year. I’ll talk with Coach and see what’s best for the team. Wherever he puts me, I usually just roll with it. He has my best interest at heart, and the team’s at the same time.”
The Hawkeyes are staying in the heart of Times Square, but Marble might as well be nestled in Newark. “I haven’t really walked around that much,” he said. “I just wanted to play.
“I’m happy to be here, it’s a wonderful city. But I came to win a championship.”
Devyn Marble is winning.
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