This was a win for the Iowa men’s basketball team in more ways than just the final points on the scoreboard.
In addition to advancing to the NIT quarterfinals with a 75-63 victory Friday over Stony Brook, the Hawkeyes also did it before another sellout crowd at Carver-Hawkeye Arena, with junior guard Devyn Marble playing another starring role and with freshman guard Mike Gesell making a key contribution without suffering another setback to his tender right foot.
Iowa improved to 23-12 on the season, marking just the eighth time since the 1980-81 campaign that Iowa has won at least 23 games in a season.
The Hawkeyes now wait for the winner of Sunday’s second-round game between No. 1 seed Virginia and fifth-seeded St. John’s. Iowa as a No. 3 seed would travel to Charlottesville, Va., to play Virginia on Wednesday because the Cavaliers are the higher seeded team. Iowa would host a third consecutive game at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Wednesday if fifth-seeded St. John’s prevails on Sunday.
The Hawkeyes are just one victory from advancing to the NIT semifinals at Madison Square Garden in New York City.
They’ve also won as many games this season as they won in Todd Lickliter’s first and third seasons combined as the Iowa coach.
And they appear to have a star in the making in the 6-foot-6 Marble, who was clearly the best player on the court for the second consecutive NIT game. Marble poured in 28 points and has scored 52 points in two NIT games while commiting just two turnovers. He also has combined for 11 assists, 10 rebounds and six steals in the two NIT games.
Marble seems to really enjoy playing in the second round of the NIT. He scored a career-high 31 points during a loss to Oregon in the second round of the NIT last season.
The sellout crowd of 15,400 showed its appreciation by giving standing ovations throughout the game, starting with the player introductions. Most of the fans spent the closing minutes of the second half standing, probably because they were too excited and appreciative to sit down.
One of the best moments came when senior Eric May was removed from the game in the closing seconds. The fans gave May a rousing and well-deserved standing ovation as he headed to the bench for perhaps the final time at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. May acknowledged the fans before stopping to hug Iowa coach Fran McCaffery.
Marble picked up where he left off against Indiana State on Wednesday by scoring 16 of Iowa’s 37 points in the first half.
The crowd also picked up where it left off Wednesday by packing the arena for the second consecutive game and by bringing an edge that’s sort of been missing from Iowa’s regular-season crowds.
It was during player introductions when I first started worrying about my ear drums rupturing. May was greeted to an ovation that he should remember for the rest of his life. It was almost like Senior Day all over again for the Dubuque native.
There was more reason to celebrate when Iowa bolted to a 17-11 lead, but then the Seawolves crashed the party by going on a 17-8 scoring run. A basket by Carson Puriefoy gave Stony Brook its biggest lead of the first half at 28-25 with just over five minutes remaining before halftime.
Iowa sophomore guard Josh Oglesby made a 3-pointer in the closing seconds of the first half to put the Hawks up 37-34 at the break.
Every time Oglesby makes a trey you wonder if it’s the start of him breaking out of a season-long shooting slump. That wasn’t the case Friday, but his only trey in the game still had an impact.
Iowa finally put the pesky Seawolves away in the closing minutes. May made a 3-point basket from the baseline to expand Iowa’s lead to 69-58 with 3 minutes, 24 seconds remaining.
As for Gesell, what a gutty 19-minute performance considering the pain he must have been feeling. I wrote that Gesell, who finished with five points, three assists and zero turnovers, shouldn’t play anymore this season because of the stress reaction in his right foot.
Now you see why I didn’t attend medical school, that and the fact that I barely could pass algebra.
The Iowa medical staff obviously knows how to handle Gesell’s situation, so I’ll just leave the medical stuff up to them.
Some fans won’t consider Iowa to be over the hump until it plays in the NCAA Tournament under McCaffery, who is in his third season as coach.
And while you could make the argument, it sure felt like Iowa climbed over the hump with Friday’s victory.
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes men's basketball