It seems everywhere Iowa junior guard Devyn Marble goes these days he’s reminded about his team’s inability to win close games.
There is one safe haven, though.
Marble and his teammates will return to that place Wednesday when Iowa faces Purdue at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. That place is the 40 minutes of actual game time when the players’ thoughts are consumed with nothing but the task at hand.
Marble was asked Monday before practice if he and his teammates start to press in late-game situations because of their inability to close games this season. Six of Iowa’s eight Big Ten losses have come by margins of four points or fewer, including Saturday’s 64-60 loss at Nebraska, a game in which Iowa led by 19 points late in the first half.
“I don’t think so, not when you’re in the heat of the moment,” Marble said. “Probably after the game once you’ve lost, you might say, ‘There’s another one,’ but not in the heat of the moment.
“I doubt anybody is thinking about it as the game was going. We were still trying to figure out a way to close out the game.”
Purdue handed Iowa one of its gut-wrenching losses, a 65-62 overtime setback Jan. 27 at Mackey Arena in West Lafayette, Ind. The Boilermakers have won 11 of the last 12 games against Iowa, including the last three in a row.
Iowa coach Fran McCaffery has left no stone unturned while trying to figure out ways for his team to close out games.
“We’ve tried pretty much everything,” McCaffery said. “We’ve tried different players. We’ve gone inside. We’ve run clear-outs, sets.
“The thing about our team is we’ve gotten different players that play better than on other days. So sometimes we go to a different lineup at the end of the game than the game before.”
Iowa still has four regular-season games remaining and at least one game in the Big Ten Tournament. The close losses have had a devastating effect on the players, but their only option is to keep forging ahead.
“We’re a team that clearly has been very close in that respect,” McCaffery said. “So when you fall short, lose a game you had a chance to win, it makes you feel that much worse.
“But the question, I think, the challenge before this team is where do we go from here? That is to be determined.”
And even though Purdue is struggling this season, especially by its standards, with records of 13-14 overall and 6-8 in the Big Ten, McCaffery said one thing never changes when facing the Boilermakers.
“I think they pride themselves on being the tougher team any time they take the floor,” McCaffery said. “That doesn’t mean they’re going to win them all, but they’re going to compete in a way that’s going to challenge our team and any team that plays them. That’s a credit to their players and their coaching staff.”
Purdue features one of the Big Ten’s top young centers in 7-foot freshman A.J. Hammons. The Gary, Ind., native leads the Big Ten in blocks with an average of 2.6 per game. Hammons blocked three shots and grabbed 10 rebounds in the first game against Iowa.
The Hawkeyes will counter with 7-1 freshman center Adam Woodbury, who is second on the team in rebounding with an average of 5.1 per game.
“Everybody in this league has size and bulk,” Woodbury said of the matchup against Hammons. “It’s no different than what I’ve been facing every night. So it’s just another task at hand. I have to go compete.”
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes men's basketball