IOWA CITY — There’s no switch in Devyn Marble’s offensive arsenal, but when he turns it on, he lights up the whole arena.
Marble, a 6-foot-6 senior guard, single-handedly brought Iowa back against Xavier, prevented a complete meltdown against Villanova and put the Hawkeyes back in control against Notre Dame.
He’s the leading scorer for the Big Ten’s highest-scoring offense (90.0 points per game) and already has posted three games of 24-plus points.
“Dev is one of the best scorers in the nation,” Iowa point guard Mike Gesell said. “When he’s hot, you’ve just got to give him the ball. When he’s attacking, hitting jumpers, it’s special to watch.”
At the Battle 4 Atlantis, Iowa trailed Xavier 55-42 with nearly 10 minutes left. Marble hit a 3-pointer to cut the deficit to 10 points. On Xavier’s next possession, Marble stole a pass at mid-court, threw the ball over his head to teammate Aaron White for a breakaway dunk. After a pairs of defensive stops, Marble drilled another 3-pointer and two free-throws. He scored eight points, dished for two and cut Iowa’s deficit from 15 to three.
In the Battle 4 Atlantis championship, Marble scored seven of Iowa’s final 10 points in regulation to send the game to overtime. But his second-half effort against Notre Dame might have been at his best to date.
Iowa squandered a nine-point halftime lead and Notre Dame rallied, putting up a 14-3 run inside barely four minutes into the second half. With the Irish leading 57-55, Marble stepped up. He scored on four consecutive possessions and six of seven overall. He put up 13 straight points for Iowa — two 3-pointers, three on drives to the basket and one on a free-throw — over 3 minutes, 39 seconds. He gave Iowa a six-point lead with his last scoring drive.
“At that point we were really struggling, and he put us on his back,” Gesell said. “He’s a special player, I’ll put it that way. He’s always looking to make plays for the team. Whenever he’s on the floor, even when he’s not scoring, he’s still helping us in a variety of ways.
“He understands his role on this team. He’s a scorer, he’s a leader. When we’re struggling, sometimes we look for him to make plays. He’s been stepping up. He’s a tremendous player.”
Iowa Coach Fran McCaffery called Marble’s run “the difference in the game.”
“Dev put us on his back for that stretch,” McCaffery said. “I think what he did was settle everybody else down on our team.”
Marble’s scoring was spontaneous, but his offseason prepared him for the spotlight. He’s in better shape than ever and his move from point guard to off-guard after the second game freed him to do more without directing the offense. It’s also allowed him to play defense.
Among Big Ten players, Marble ranks second in steals (2.4) and ninth in assists (3.8). He’s the only Big Ten player and one of only five nationally with those numbers plus scoring at least 16.8 points a game.
“If you want to be an elite player in this country and this league, you’ve got to make big plays,” Marble said. “Down the stretch last year I think we struggled with that. Me, individually, and some other guys, but me in particular. So I came in with this season knowing I wasn’t going to have the same failures I had last year. I was going to find ways to make big plays for us down the stretch.”
Marble is mentally tough enough to absorb the criticism. Last year he dipped in mid-season and was a prime reason why Iowa didn’t qualify for the NCAA tournament. He made only 6-of-12 free throws against Villanova, which turned into an overtime loss.
But that’s part of the game. He accepts his responsibility and its correlation to the outcome without complaint or timidity.
“Sometimes I’m going to be able to do it, sometimes I’m not,” Marble said. “At the end of the day I’m not afraid to fail, and that’s what makes me a confident player down the stretch. I’m not afraid to take a big shot or try to make a big play or whatever it is. You’ve got to find ways to win, even when it doesn’t go as planned. Stuff like that doesn’t get to me, and you’ve just got to continue to keep playing.”
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