It wasn’t the prettiest of starts for the Iowa Hawkeyes on Wednesday night at Carver Hawkeye Arena, but the Hawkeyes weren’t phased. They were able to defeat the Indiana St Sycamores 68-52 behind 24 points from their leader, Devyn Marble.
The Hawkeyes fell behind early thanks to the hot start from Sycamore forward R.J. Mahurin as he buried two three point baskets to open the game to take the energy right out of the fans here at Carver. The Hawkeyes clawed their way back into the game to take a 31-30 lead into the half. The Sycamores did a nice job controlling the pace and limiting the Hawkeyes’ fast break opportunities in the first half, while also doing a phenomenal job of controlling the crowd and not letting it get too loud.
The second half was a completely different story as the Hawkeyes came out with a certain intensity that they lacked in the first half and that was kick-started by the defense and getting out in transition. When asked about the run that Iowa made, Fran McCaffery simply said “transition buckets.” That seemed to be the consensus with all of the Hawkeyes as everyone mentioned getting out in transition and the intensity that was lacking in the first half.
While Iowa shot worse in the second half than they did in the first half, at 38%, the defense seemed to pick up as Marble had a couple of key steals that led to a couple of easy transition buckets, both of which got the fans back into the game.
Melsahn Basabe, who was basically invisible in the first half and for most of the second, had a great last ten minutes of the game as he had a big jumper and a dunk that was key to his confidence as the Hawkeyes get deeper into post-season play.
With about seven minutes left in the second half Mike Gesell took a jump-shot that missed and came back down the court grimacing and gesturing to the coaching staff that he needed out. If you’re a Hawkeye fan, the first thing that entered your mind was “oh no, his foot.” Which is exactly what it is. “I’m very concerned” coach McCaffery said about Gesell’s foot. With freshman point guard Anthony Clemmons struggling and the fact that there is only one of Devyn Marble, Gesell’s injury isn’t something the Hawkeyes needed at this point in the season.
Iowa did a great job on the glass and balancing out the scoring attack in the second half. They out-rebounded the Sycamores by 15 for the game and got timely baskets from both Zach McCabe and Josh Oglesby. If Gesell is unable to go on Friday look for guys like this and Eric May to play a bigger role for the Hawkeyes.
With this win and the #7 seed, Stony Brook, also winning at the hands of #2 Massachusetts, it sets up a match-up between the #3 seeded Hawkeyes and Stony Brook. Now, had UMass won their game against Stony Brook, Iowa would have to travel out east, but since Stony Brook is the #7 seed they will come to Iowa City on Friday night to take on the Hawkeyes.
This sets up great for Iowa as they are a much better home team compared to on the road and cane take this momentum into Friday where there will most likely be 15,000 strong at Carver Hawkeye Arena to cheer on the Hawkeyes. That game is scheduled for 8:30CT.
The only question mark that remains for Iowa has everything to do with starting point guard Mike Gesell’s foot.