NEW YORK — Iowa’s basketball season lives on in the city that never sleeps.
The Hawkeyes took the lead early and never relinquished it, advancing to Thursday’s NIT championship with a 71-60 victory against Maryland on Tuesday at Madison Square Garden.
Iowa used an early 11-0 run to take the lead after the Terrapins had scored the game’s first two field goals, fought off a second-half comeback and moved on to Thursday’s 8 p.m. title game against Baylor with a 25-12 record. That’s ties the 2005-06 team for the second-most victories in a single season.
The Bears (22-14) beat BYU 76-70 in Tuesday’s other semifinal.
“They’re a team with a lot of weapons,” Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said of Baylor.
Devyn Marble led the Hawkeyes with 21 points, his fourth consecutive performance of more than 20 points in the NIT this season. Add last season’s final NIT game, a 31-point effort in a second-round loss at Oregon, and it’s five straight.
“I have played pretty well, I guess, in the NIT,” Marble said, a huge smile breaking out on his face. “I don’t know what it is. It’s postseason play. It’s March. It’s a fun time to be playing. Everybody is watching you. When you get opportunities to play in the Garden, and on national television, you just want to play your best, and continue to win.”
Eric May, the team’s lone senior, added 12 points, including a clutch 3-pointer from the top of the key with a minute to play that gave Iowa a nine-point lead and was the final dagger.
“That was the one that put it away,” Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said. “I certainly wasn’t surprised. He’s been playing like that all season.”
May is having the time of his Iowa basketball life as the wins keep piling up. Twenty-five and counting.
“It’s special to do it with this group of guys,” May said. “Everybody, the coaching staff, unbelievable people to be around. And I think that’s why we are winning this many games, because we’re all in this together. There’s one goal, and that’s to win games, win a championship. And I think it’s showing.”
McCaffery jumped in as soon as May finished answering his question.
“He’s one of the greatest captains I’ve ever been around,” McCaffery said.
Center Alex Len led the Terrapins, 25-13, with 16 points and nine rebounds. Dez Wells, Maryland’s leading scorer who had averaged better than 18 points in six postseason games this season, got in early foul trouble and finished with just nine.
“Iowa was great (Tuesday),” Maryland coach Mark Turgeon said. “They made plays, they made free throws, they made big shots when they had to make them. They were ready to play. That’s the story of the game. They were ready, and we weren’t.”
Iowa’s early 11-0 run, in just 131 seconds, grew to a lead of as many as 14 points in the opening half. Maryland rallied with a 14-5 run in the final 5 minutes to cut the halftime deficit to 38-33. Iowa had a 18-2 edge in points after turnovers in the first half.
Iowa hug on to that lead tenaciously. Maryland shot just one free throw the first half, but got in the bonus with 14:16 remaining. The Terrapins closed to within 49-45 with 11:56 remaining, and it was a precarious 63-58 lead with 3:04 to go. But May’s 3-pointer was the final blow. And gave him one more college game.
“It would be nice to win my last game,” May said.
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes men's basketball