STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — Iowa scored 12 baskets by halftime Saturday, and Melsahn Basabe was responsible for six of them.
Basabe, a 6-foot-7 senior forward, was active and physical at a time when his skill set was needed. He extended a pair of runs that put Iowa ahead early and then 29-21 . He scored on putbacks, knocked down layups with spin moves and he hit jumpers from the top of the key.
Basabe finished with 16 points, eight rebounds and four blocks in an 82-70 Iowa win Saturday at Penn State. He did that despite spending a stretch of the second half in the locker room.
“He was great,” Iowa Coach Fran McCaffery said. “He played with great energy, great attention to detail. I was really impressed with him. When he’s playing like that, we’re a much better team. Considering how sick he was, what can you say about his level of toughness?”
“I don’t really consider it a special performance,” Basabe said. “I try to come out every game with energy and intensity. We have such a great team, Devyn (Marble) might go crazy, Aaron might be on, so it’s not really on me. When the opportunity presented itself to be a scorer, I feel like I had to do that in the first half.”
Basabe kept Iowa ahead with baskets on three of four possessions to push the Hawkeyes’ ahead by eight points with five minutes left in the first half.
While his points were down, his second-half performance was more dominant. He grabbed six boards and blocked two shots. Twice he knocked down a pair of free throws to extend leads to 13 points.
“Mel was tremendous, just being active on the glass,” Iowa guard Mike Gesell said. “I always tell him to be a beast there. That’s exactly what he was (Saturday). Getting offensive rebounds, getting big defensive rebounds, knocking down free throws.”
“I was just being aggressive,” Basabe said. “Coach called a couple of plays for me. I finished them off, and I was just crashing the offensive glass just being active.”
Basabe and junior center Gabe Olaseni fought through illness to play. Sophomore guard Anthony Clemmons (ankle) and freshman guard Peter Jok (knee) didn’t play.
“They’ll be all right,” McCaffery said. “Couldn’t go today.”
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