Iowa basketball coach Fran McCaffery figured it was only a matter of time before junior guard Devyn Marble would break out of his shooting slump.
Marble’s teammates felt the same way, as did the 6-foot-6 Marble.
It turns out they were all right.
Marble scored a game-high 21 points on 8-of-13 shooting from the field to lead Iowa to a 71-57 victory over Northwestern before a near-sellout crowd of 15,267 Saturday at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
“He was spectacular today, there’s no question about it,” McCaffery said of Marble.
It took Marble just 28 seconds into Saturday’s game to match his point total from the previous two games. He scored the game’s first basket on a breakaway dunk with 19 minutes 32, seconds left in the first half.
Marble also made a 3-point basket with 16:35 left in the first half, much to the delight of the fans who could sense that perhaps he was ready to erupt.
“The dunk was an easy bucket starting the game off,” Marble said. “It kind of gets you in a rhythm and a flow.
“And then the 3, I just shot it. I didn’t think about it or anything like that. And the rest of the game it seemed like we played really well.”
Iowa improved to 15-9 overall and 4-7 in the Big Ten, while Northwestern fell to 13-11 and 4-7 in the conference. The Hawkeyes, who had lost four of their previous five games by a combined 19 points, also completed a regular-season sweep against Northwestern, with Iowa winning the first game 70-50 on Jan. 13 in Evanston, Ill.
Iowa’s first victory against Northwestern marked the last time that an opponent scored at least 70 points against the Wildcats until Marble and his cohorts tallied 71 on Saturday.
“It was a good team win; a lot of guys contributed,” Iowa’s lone senior, Eric May, said. “Devyn played great. He looked like he was in a good flow. He was seeing the court and making plays.
“So it’s really good to have him playing like that.”
May, who is arguably Iowa’s best dunker, missed Marble’s slam at the beginning of the game because of an obstructed view from the bench.
“I didn’t even get to see it,” May said. “Everybody stood up. But I’m sure it was pretty good, though.”
The 6-5 May also treated fans to another one of his rim-rattling dunks, this one coming off a steal that gave Iowa a 36-31 lead with 15:42 left in the second half. Iowa led by as many as 19 points in the second half.
“That was nice to get,” May said. “It was kind of a tight point in the game, too. I was able to get an easy scoop steal.”
Iowa shot 48 percent from the field Saturday, making 24-of-50 field-goal attempts. That is Iowa’s highest shooting percentage against a Big Ten opponent this season, breaking the previous high of 46 percent, which Iowa shot in the first game against Northwestern.
Northwestern had to pay extra attention to Marble on defense, and McCaffery said his team took advantage.
“It changes our running game, it changes our half-court offense,” McCaffery said of Marble’s presence. “They really have to pay attention to him. He’s such a weapon because he can do so many different things.
“That’s what he is going to be for the rest of the year. There is no doubt in my mind.”
An already-depleted Northwestern roster took two more hits Saturday when starting center Alex Olah and starting forward Jared Swopshire left the game with injuries in the second half and didn’t return. The 7-0 Olah left the game at the 18:30 mark of the second half with a possible concussion. The 6-8 Swopshire, Northwestern’s leading rebounder, was lost to a leg injury with 13:40 remaining.
Iowa finished with a 34-31 advantage on the boards and had eight players grab at least three rebounds. However, Northwestern was leading the rebounding battle 19-13 at halftime and also scored eight second-chance points in the first half.
“The game wasn’t lost because of that,” Northwestern coach Bill Carmody said of losing his two front-line starters. “But it certainly opened up a lot sooner than maybe it would have.”
The Hawkeyes will try to win back-to-back Big Ten games for the second time this season when they play at last-place Penn State next Thursday. Iowa defeated Northwestern and Wisconsin in back-to-back games last month.
In addition to scoring his most points in a Big Ten game this season, Marble also grabbed five rebounds and dished out five assists. His previous high in a Big Ten game this season was 14 points in the first two conference games against Indiana and Michigan.
Marble had failed to score in double figures in four of the previous five games before Saturday. He was held scoreless during a 62-59 loss at Minnesota last Sunday and scored just two points in Wednesday’s 74-70 double-overtime loss at Wisconsin on 1-of-10 shooting from the field.
“These close losses have really made us mad,” Marble said. “Now we’ve got to get on a run and make up for those losses.”
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes men's basketball