A quick and total turnaround.
That’s what the Iowa men’s basketball team was seeking early on in the second half on Monday night, and that’s what the Hawkeyes received from Mike Gesell.
With the game tied at 34 all early in the second half, the freshman point guard embarked upon the most clutch sequence of the contest. In a span of a few minutes, he broke the tie with a long 3-pointer, recorded an assist on an Aaron White dunk, made an easy layup, and hit another 3-pointer to increase the deficit.
Iowa wouldn’t trail again after that. The Hawkeyes maintained their margin the rest of the night to defeat Central Michigan, 73-61, in Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
“We executed substantially better as the game went on,” head coach Fran McCaffery said.
The Black and Gold (2-0) carried over their offensive struggles from the first half — where they shot just 35 percent — to the second, and Central Michigan (0-1) proved to be a formidable opponent in the early stages.
Then Gesell took over.
He missed only two shots all of the second period, finishing with 15 points on 6-of-11 shooting. He also added in 5 assists and 3 rebounds.
“When Mike’s in a rhythm, he’s almost un-guardable,” freshman guard Anthony Clemmons said. “You got to stick with the hot hand, and that was Mike tonight.”
Iowa needed as much production as it got from Gesell, too. Starting forward Zach McCabe and reserve shooting guard Josh Oglesby each posted goose eggs — they were a combined 0-of-5 from the field.
But as a team, the shooting improved mightily in the second half, thanks in part to a smaller lineup consisting of Gesell, Clemmons, Devyn Marble, Aaron White, and Melsahn Basabe. After the Gesell 3 to break the 34-34 tie, those five pushed Iowa to a 24-9 run before the Chippewas called timeout and regrouped.
“I think we have good chemistry together,” Marble said of the smaller lineup. “We’re all unselfish. We try to run the floor and get each other open shots. It’s been a joy.
Gesell was the leader, though. Again, in the second half: 4-of-6 shooting.
“I was really struggling in the first half,” Gesell said. “But I knew I had to be aggressive … we were complacent as an offense. Once we started attacking [Central Michigan's] defense more, we really opened things up.”
Even the head coach was impressed — very.
“He was just too good,” McCaffery said. “He didn’t look rattled at all.”