CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. – The celebration was spirited. Iowa’s locker room was raucous and rolling.
“It’s the most excited they’ve been since I’ve been here,” Iowa men’s basketball coach Fran McCaffery said after his team defeated Virginia 75-64 in the quarterfinals of the NIT on Wednesday at John Paul Jones Arena.
The reward is a trip to Madison Square Garden in New York City and an 8 p.m. Tuesday matchup against Maryland in the semifinals.
“It’s almost unexplainable,” Iowa’s Devyn Marble said after scoring 24 points in the Hawkeyes’ 24th victory of the season. “It will be an honor to play there. It’s humbling. And we’re going to try to make the most of it. We’re going there to win it.”
The Cavaliers, who finished the season 23-12, brought a 19-game home-court winning streak into the game. Snap, crackle, pop.
“We did this together,” said Iowa’s lone senior, Eric May, who will end his career in one of basketball’s most famous venues. “We’re not satisfied. We want to win it all.”
Virginia went 9-0 at home against Atlantic Coast Conference teams this season. Coach Tony Bennett’s team was fourth nationally in scoring defense at 57.2 points per game. Duke scored 68 in a loss to the Cavaliers. No other ACC team scored more than 55.
Iowa torched those numbers, shooting 49.1 percent from the field and making all 15 of its free-throw attempts. The last 14 came in the final 3 minutes and 9 seconds, which showed maturity from a team that had struggled in the final minutes of several Big Ten road games.
“Guys made free throws, guys made passes,” said McCaffery, whose team was 2-8 on the road before Wednesday. “We never panicked.”
Iowa’s 24th victory puts this team, two seasons removed from an 11-20 record, tied for third with the 1987-88 team for most single-season victories in school history. Only the 2005-06 team, with 25, and the 1986-87 team, with 30, have more.
Marble’s father, Roy, played on two of those teams.
“I saw Roy Marble play,” Bennett said. “The apple didn’t fall too far from the tree. (Devyn) had a very complete game. We didn’t have anyone who could stop him.”
Marble made half of his 16 field-goal attempts, all seven free-throw attempts, added five assists to two turnovers and had three steals and a block.
“With a player like that on the floor, there’s a lot of relief,” freshman point guard Anthony Clemmons said. “He always makes the right play at the right time. He takes the pressure off.”
Marble, who has averaged 25.3 points in three NIT games, has had that success with an unselfish style of play.
“That’s the sign of a great player, who has matured,” McCaffery said.
Marble had plenty of help Wednesday. Six teammates scored at least six points. Adam Woodbury had 10 points and eight rebounds. Zach McCabe also had 10 points. May added eight. Mike Gesell, who couldn’t play in the second half after re-injuring his right foot, and Clemmons each had seven.
“This was a team win in every sense of the word,” May said.
White struggled to a six-point, five-rebound night. But he dug out two tough offensive rebounds that led to 3-pointers by May and McCabe, both of which kept the Cavaliers at bay down the stretch.
“You can see this team grow right in front of your eyes,” White said. “All year long we struggled in close games on the road. But we had the resolve, the grit, to get a stop, get a rebound, and play our game on offense.”
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes men's basketball