LINCOLN, Neb. – The Bob Devaney Sports Center won’t feel like a Big Ten road venue to Mike Gesell.
“I’m used to the rims already,” Iowa’s freshman point guard said. “I’ve played there many times. Nothing new.”
The Hawkeyes come to town for a 1 p.m. game with Nebraska on Saturday. Gesell played nine State Class B tournament games on the Cornhuskers’ home court during his career at South Sioux City. The Cardinals won eight of them – state titles in 2010 and 2011 and a runner-up finish last March.
Gesell scored 209 points in those nine games, which puts him sixth on Nebraska’s career state tournament scoring list.
“I’ve had some good success there overall,” Gesell said. “It’s a fun place to play.”
Saturday will be Gesell’s first college game in his native state, a debut moved back two days because of a predicted snowstorm that never packed the expected punch. It’s also a must-win game for the Hawkeyes as far as NCAA Tournament dreams go.
“I can’t get caught up in all the off-the-court stuff,” said Gesell, the first Nebraska player to suit up for the Hawkeyes since all-Big Ten point guard Andre Woolridge from Omaha (1994-1997). “I’ve got to stay locked in on the game plan and go in and try to get a win.”
Iowa, 17-9 overall and 6-7 in the Big Ten, will be trying to win a fourth consecutive league game for the first time since the 2005-06 season. Nebraska is an overachieving 12-14 overall and 3-10 in the Big Ten under first-year coach Tim Miles.
“I think coach (Fran) McCaffery has done an outstanding job,’ Miles said. “He’s got great young talent. They’re trying to make a late push here to get on the bubble and get in the conversation for the NCAA Tournament. And they just might. They’ve got the most favorable part of their schedule.”
Gesell had already signed with Iowa when Miles left Colorado State to replace Doc Sadler as Nebraska’s coach last spring. Sadler had recruited Gesell. So did home-state Creighton. Gesell is averaging 9.1 points and 2.8 assists as a Big Ten rookie. He’s scored in double figures in four of the last five games.
“I think he’s a heck of a player,” Miles said. “He’s a heady player. The first thing you notice is he makes really good decisions. He finds guys in the window off the screen and roll. He delivers the ball, he can make shots. I think Fran and his staff did an excellent job recruiting him and he’s a good fit for their program.”
Gesell started the season at point guard. He went to second guard when McCaffery inserted Anthony Clemmons at the point on Dec. 1 against Texas A. and M.-Corpus Christi, then moved back to point when McCaffery inserted forward Melsahn Basabe into his starting five Jan. 31 against Penn State.
“He’s had a tremendous impact, which is what I thought he would,” McCaffery said. “It’s been an interesting year for him because he was our starting point guard, then I moved him to off-guard, and then I loved him back to the point. That is not an easy thing to do for a freshman, and he’s done it incredibly well.”
WHO: Iowa (17-9, 6-7 Big Ten) at Nebraska (12-14, 3-10 Big Ten).
WHERE: Bob Devaney Sports Center, Lincoln, Neb.
TIPOFF: 1 p.m.
RADIO: WHO-AM (1040) and Hawkeye Radio Network.
STAT LEADERS: For Iowa – Devyn Marble 13.6 ppg; Aaron White 5.8 rpg; Anthony Clemmons 3.5 apg; for Nebraska – Dylan Talley 13.8 ppg; Brandon Ubel 6.8 rpg; Talley 2.3 apg.
ABOUT THE HAWKEYES: A win would give Coach Fran McCaffery a winning record for the first time since he was 7-6 in 2010-11, his opening season at Iowa. McCaffery is 46-46 with the Hawkeyes and is three victories shy of 300 for his career.
ABOUT THE CORNHUSKERS: Nebraska leaves the Bob Devaney Sports Center after this season for the Pinnacle Bank Arena. Nebraska hosted Iowa in the first game ever played at the Devaney. Iowa won, 71-57, on Nov. 27, 1976.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR: Iowa is 24-0 under Coach Fran McCaffery when holding opponents under 60 points. Nebraska is last in the Big Ten in scoring at 55.8 points a game. Nebraska has scored 64 points or more in five Big Ten games, winning three of them.
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes men's basketball