Iowa opened Thursday’s Big Ten Tournament opener with an 11-0 run, never surrendered that lead and beat Northwestern, 73-59, at the United Center.
The Hawkeyes, 21-11 and winning for the seventh time in their last nine games, advance to today’s 8 p.m. quarterfinal against Michigan State (24-7). The Spartans won in the season’s only other previous meeting, 62-59, in Iowa City on Jan. 10.
Today’s game is one that the Hawkeyes need to win to take a step closer to the NCAA Tournament. It’s a game that is bigger than any player currently in an Iowa uniform has ever played in before.
“It is a big game for a lot of us, probably the biggest of our careers,” said Devyn Marble, who led the Hawkeyes with 19 points. “We’ve got to be able to have that poise.”
But freshman guard Mike Gesell, who scored 13 points in his first game back after missing the previous four games with a foot injury, said the NCAA Tournament isn’t a rallying cry for this team.
“A lot of people think we’re coming here just to get our bid to the NCAA Tournament, but we’re all competitors,” Gesell said. “We want to win this thing. That’s our goal.”
Northwestern, losing its ninth straight game and 11th in the last 13 in a season that saw it saddled with a staggering list of injuries, finished the season 13-19.
Marble made just 4 of 12 shots from the field, but made 9 of 12 free throws. He has scored at least 18 points in seven of the last nine games.
Gesell said he got winded early in the game, but didn’t hit the wall again after coming off the bench. Gesell started at point guard and had three assists to no turnovers.
“We got great play from a lot of people,” Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said. “It was great to have Mike back in the lineup.”
Aaron White finished with nine points and four rebounds and hyperextended his right elbow in the second half. He said the injury won’t keep him out against the Spartans.
“Are you kidding me?” White said. “They’ll have to rip my arm off not to play.”
Melsahn Basabe had 10 points and 12 rebounds, his second straight double-double, and blocked five shots.
Basabe had seven of those rebounds in the first 4:05 of the game, scooping up caroms at both ends of the floor. The Wildcats missed their first seven shots from the field, and turned it over three times. In their first 10 possessions of the game.
“I thought our defensive intensity at the start of the game was absolutely critical,” McCaffery said. “It really got us going.”
After Northwestern cut the deficit to 15-9, Iowa went on a 12-0 run to takes its largest lead of the half at 29-11. Adam Woodbury’s conventional three-point play started the run. Eric May ended it with a one-hand slam with 5:09 remaining in the half.
Carmody burned four timeouts in the first half, which ended with Iowa in front, 36-22. He used his final one less than a minute into the second half.
The Hawkeyes maintained a double digit lead for most of the second half. Reggie Hearn, who finished with 19 points to lead the Wildcats, cut the deficit to 50-43 with 8:28 to play. But Marble and Eric May, who had seven points, five assists, a block, a steal and no turnovers, made 3-pointers on back-to-back possessions to set the stage for today’s game with the Spartans.
“I’m glad people are getting excited about this,” May said. “They should be. We’re giving them reason to be.”
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes men's basketball