IOWA CITY — Iowa’s pent-up frustration from two consecutive home losses, which led Coach Fran McCaffery to push aside any video review from the last defeat, bubbled over in practice this week. Saturday, that frustration was unleashed on No. 16 Michigan in a dominant performance at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
No. 13 Iowa (18-6, 7-4) outfought the Wolverines in every facet of an 85-67 win. The Hawkeyes were efficient on offense, compiling 22 assists on 29 baskets. Their defense forced 12 Michigan turnovers and stifled any major runs. Iowa knocked down 10 of 17 3-point attempts, one game after making just 3 of 20.
But most important it was a big win against a big opponent. The Wolverines beat Iowa by eight on Jan. 22. Both Michigan State and Ohio State escaped Carver-Hawkeye Arena with wins. The Hawkeyes opened the day 1-6 against top-20 opponents and had everyone questioning their resolve. That led to a sense of urgency.
“I don’t like to say anything is a must-win, but it’s a very important win,” Iowa senior Devyn Marble said. “We had a little of our struggles at home these past couple of games. Even though we only had two losses at home, for me it felt like we had 10 losses on the season. I don’t know why. I’m a competitor. I love to win. Maybe that played a part of it.”
Marble’s mindset entering the game was simple.
“We were not losing to them,” he said. “We just couldn’t lose this game.”
Iowa didn’t, and Marble was a primary reason why. The shooting guard scored Iowa’s first nine points on 3-pointers. He finished the first half with 22 points and ended the game with 26 to move into 10th on Iowa’s all-time scoring list. Marble was 8 of 17 from the field, dished two assists, grabbed two steals and locked down opponent Nik Stauskas, who scored 10 points on 3 of 6 shooting. Stauskas put up 26 points against Iowa on Jan. 22, but on Saturday had four turnovers and no assists in 35 minutes.
Marble wasn’t the primary defender on Stauskas two weeks ago, but Marble took completely responsibility for the Michigan sophomore on Saturday.
“I knew he wasn’t coming in here and scoring 26 again,” Marble said. “If he was going to do that, he was going to have really show me what he has. He would have to exert energy and a tough 26.”
Iowa point guard Mike Gesell led a solid offensive output for Iowa with 10 points, eight assists, three steals and only one turnover. The Hawkeyes outrebounded Michigan 38-29 and pulled down 15 offensive rebounds. That was the one area in which Michigan overpowered Iowa in Ann Arbor.
Again, that whole sense of urgency thing.
“We ran into a buzz saw today,” Michigan Coach John Beilein said. “This is the way they were playing when watching the first semester, no matter who they playing against. They punched us early and it was hard to respond.”
Iowa’s 76-69 home loss to Ohio State last Tuesday shook the program’s foundation. Iowa Coach Fran McCaffery declined to show any video from that game. The effort wasn’t there and it was best the team moved on to Michigan. The players took Wednesday off, and the intensity returned in Thursday’s practice.
Marble compared it to the team’s first day of practice. The energy was contagious, and so was the attitude. If Iowa was going to lose to Michigan, so be it. But the effort would be there and sustained for 40 minutes.
ESPN’s website showed the headline “Backs Against The Wall” about the Iowa program entering Saturday. The Hawkeyes had lost 12 of their last 13 against ranked opponents.
“We’ve had a good season up to now If we lose (Saturday), it’s not like our season’s over with,” Iowa forward Aaron White said. “I see where they’re coming at because we’ve had some disappointing games at home with top-tier teams, and we kind of need to get a good win against a good opponent. By no means did any of us feel that way; we just wanted to get back to playing our game, playing together and finally put on a good show in front of our crowd and we’ve been lacking that the past two games, obviously Michigan State and Ohio State.”
But Iowa established the necessary toughness and killer instinct against Michigan. The Hawkeyes maintained and extended their lead throughout the game, something that didn’t happen in previous games. Iowa remains a factor in both the Big Ten race and nationally.
“I don’t know if people had us winning or losing but we just played like we were the more desperate team and needed this W more,” Marble said. “We just took advantage of the opportunity that was in front of us.”