IOWA CITY, Ia. — Defending the home court is a must for the Iowa men’s basketball team as it tries to make the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2006.
The 22nd-ranked Hawkeyes have answered that challenge every time this season, but not without tense moments in Tuesday’s game against Nebraska.
Iowa withstood a late Cornhusker rally to escape from Carver-Hawkeye Arena with a 67-57 victory in the Big Ten opener for both teams.
“It feels good to get off to a good start; 1-0 feels a lot better than 0-1,” Iowa senior guard Devyn Marble said. “Now we just have to get ready for Wisconsin.”
Iowa improved to 12-2 overall, including 9-0 at home, and has four days to prepare for Sunday’s showdown against undefeated Wisconsin at the Kohl Center in Madison, Wis.
Nebraska fell to 8-5, but didn’t go down easily.
The Cornhuskers trimmed a 20-point deficit in the second half down to five points in the closing minutes.
Iowa didn’t make a basket in the final eight minutes and missed 17 out of 39 free throws. However, the Hawkeyes made 7-of-10 free throws in the final two minutes to secure the victory.
“I think you feel good about any Big Ten win,” Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said. “When you look at this league, there is no relief anywhere, whether you’re at home, no matter who you’re playing.
“… And, obviously, we didn’t play a perfect game, but we played well enough to win. And you just put it behind you. We have 17 more.”
Marble led three Iowa players in double figures with 15 points despite playing with tightness in his back. He also made 3-of-4 free throws in the final 47.7 seconds, but was just 7-for-11 overall from the charity stripe.
“All you can do is just keep shooting them,” Marble said of Iowa’s struggles from the free-throw line. “All mine felt good. I can’t speak for anybody else.”
Sophomore center Adam Woodbury provided a spark for Iowa by scoring three quick baskets in the second half. The 7-foot-1 native of Sioux City grabbed an offensive rebound and made a basket to give Iowa a 37-27 lead with just over 17 minutes left in the second half.
“It was good to get off to that start in the second half,” said Woodbury, who finished with eight points and four rebounds. “It kind of gave us a little spark at the beginning and pushed us into a little run.
“I just tried to do whatever I could to help the team out.”
Woodbury wasn’t surprised that Nebraska rallied at the end. Junior forward Terran Petteway led the Cornhuskers with 20 points and 12 rebounds.
“They’re a good team,” Woodbury said. “We were up by 20 at one point, but we knew they were going to keep coming, and any victory is a good one.”
Nebraska has lost 19 consecutive road games against ranked opponents, a streak that dates back to 2008.
“We were close,” second-year Nebraska coach Tim Miles said. “I thought in the second half they got on top of us early. In the first four minutes, we made eight errors in our get-back defense, and we made three more the rest of the half.”
Iowa bolted to a 13-7 start, but the Cornhuskers seized the momentum and took the lead behind an 11-0 scoring run. Junior guard Deverell Biggs made a basket to push the lead to 20-14 with 9:02 left before halftime.
Iowa then answered with back-to-back baskets by Mike Gesell and Aaron White. Their baskets triggered a 16-3 Iowa scoring run to close the first half with the Hawkeyes leading 30-23.
Nebraska had 11 offensive rebounds in the first half, but struggled to turn them into points by making just 10-of-38 field-goal attempts. The Cornhuskers shot a season-low 29.9 percent from the field overall Tuesday.
“That’s why we won,” McCaffery said of Iowa’s defensive effort. “We didn’t win because of our rebounding. We didn’t win because of our 3-point shooting. We won because of our defense.”
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes men's basketball