As Wisconsin narrowed Iowa’s deficit further and further in the second half on Saturday night, there was room to wonder if the Hawkeyes would actually squander a 16-point halftime lead.
And then Devyn Marble eased all the worry. Amongst a sell-out crowd at Carver-Hawkeye Arena, Marble hit a 3-pointer to increase the Hawkeyes’ lead to nine. After a couple more Wisconsin runs, Iowa (13-5, 2-3 Big Ten) held off the Badgers (13-5, 4-1) for good and won, 70-66. Marble finished with 13 points.
“That was huge,” head coach Fran McCaffery said of Marble’s shot. “We were sputtering a little bit … we were able to milk the clock, and then he hit a step back 3. That was huge.”
From the opening tip to the final buzzer, there was a tremendous buzz throughout Carver-Hawkeye. Not only was there compelling action on the hardwood, but the men’s basketball program paid tribute to former player Chris Street, who died tragically in a car accident 20 years ago.
The Street family was in attendance and a special halftime ceremony took place to honor Street in memoriam, which led the crowd to multiple standing ovations during the tribute. Street’s No. 40 jersey was also draped over the first seat on the Iowa bench.
The players fed off of some of that energy.
“The whole night — celebrating [Street’s] life, remembering how great of a player and how great of a person he was — was really cool,” sophomore Aaron White said.
This is a big, big win for the Hawkeyes. The Badgers were undefeated in the Big Ten prior to Saturday, and defeated then-No. 2 Indiana on Jan. 15. No doubt, a résumé-builder for Iowa’s postseason aspirations.
Some would even say a signature win. And time will tell. For now, this is yet another shakeup within the conference’s standings.
“A loss tonight, and we fall far behind in the Big Ten,” Marble said. “We’re still in the race now. Giving [Wisconsin] its first loss, that helps everybody. Now, we just have to use this as momentum.”
Aside from Marble, the Black and Gold received a solid performance from White, who posted 17 points including 13-for-15 from the free-throw line. Freshmen Mike Gesell and Anthony Clemmons chipped in 11 and 10 points, respectively.
Eric May and Melsahn Basabe provides thunderous dunks in the second half as well.
In front of a full, standing-room only press room post game, McCaffery summed up the night — and the energy in Carver-Hawkeye — appropriately.
“There was an energy level in the building that I’ve never seen before,” he said. “I’ve been in a lot of buildings in my playing and coaching career, and nothing like that.
“There’s not a doubt in my mind, there was a difference.”