STATE COLLEGE, Pa. – Iowa won just four Big Ten basketball games when Melsahn Basabe was a freshman. On Saturday, the Hawkeyes won their fourth Big Ten road game of Basabe’s senior season.
“That’s a testament to our team and how we continue to develop,” said Basabe, who fought off an illness to play a key role in No. 16 Iowa’s 82-70 victory over Penn State at the Bryce Jordan Center.
Basabe, who spent part of the second half in the locker room, finished with 16 points, eight rebounds and four blocked shots, all team highs.
“He played with great energy,” Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said. “A 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 toughness?”
Iowa improved to 19-6 overall and 8-4 in the Big Ten. The Hawkeyes won their third straight conference road game for the first time since the 1997-98 season and a fourth league road game overall for the first time since 2003-04.
Basabe was a freshman in 2009-10, also McCaffery’s first season at Iowa. That team went 4-14 in the Big Ten and 11-20 overall. Tuesday at Indiana, the Hawkeyes could reach the 20-victory mark before March for just the fourth time in the last 25 years.
“We have an experienced team,” McCaffery said. “And we’ve got a deep team. And we’ve got toughness and multiple ballhandlers. There’s so much that goes into playing on the road … traveling, dealing with weather issues, the home-court advantage … but we have responded well to those challenges. That’s what I expected out of this team. And I think that’s what they expected out of themselves.”
Devyn Marble, the Big Ten’s second-leading scorer, made a transition jumper just 6 seconds into the game. He didn’t score again in the first half and was 2-for-9 from the field for the game, but Marble made 10 out of 12 free throws to finish with 15 points. He remains the only player in the league to reach double figures in every Big Ten game.
“Literally every shot I took felt good,” Marble said. “I just tried to stay patient. After awhile, I was just trying to get to the bucket when the opportunity presented itself.”
Aaron White chipped in with 14 points and Mike Gesell had 13, making four of his five 3-pointers with seven assists to two turnovers. He entered the game leading the Big Ten in assist-to-turnover ratio.
“At the point-guard position, you have to be a scoring threat,” Gesell said. “Coach McCaffery preaches that to me all the time.”
Jarrod Uthoff also provided Iowa a big lift off the bench with seven points and seven rebounds. He was credited with just one blocked shot, but claimed he had four. That would have increased Iowa’s block total to 13, tying a school record.
“Oh, well. We won,” Uthoff said.
Penn State, 13-13 overall and 4-9 in the Big Ten, had won four of its previous six contests, including a late-game rally to knock off Indiana 66-65 Wednesday in Bloomington. D.J. Newbill led the Nittany Lions with 22 points. But Penn State made just three of 16 3-pointers.
Iowa made five of 10 the second half and finished 7-for-19. The Hawkeyes are 8-0 in Big Ten play when they make at least five triples.
Iowa also outscored Penn State from the free-throw line 31-15 and had just six turnovers. The Hawkeyes turned it over just seven times in its previous game, an 85-67 decision over Michigan on Feb. 8.
Penn State finished the first half with a 12-2 run and took a 33-31 lead into halftime.
“When you play Penn State, you know it’s going to be physical and you’ve got to play through that physicality,” McCaffery said. “I thought in the first half they were better at it then we were. We hit a few shots early and softened up a bit. I thought the second half we were much tougher on the glass and playing through contact. Almost a different team.”
Trailing 44-42 with 13 minutes to play, Iowa regained command with a 16-4 run over the next 6 minutes. And in the final 4 minutes, the Hawkeyes made 16 of 18 free throws to lock up another road triumph.
“I think we have a lot of team chemistry,” Gesell said. “We play very well together. We know where each other is going to be. That helps a lot.”
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes men's basketball