IOWA CITY – The Gophers had weathered the storm late in the first half, the halftime buzzer conveniently saving them from losing their lead altogether.
Despite an 8-0 run from Iowa, they still held a two-point lead at the break against an incredibly tough team in a challenging road environment. Things were good.
That is, until Devyn Marble got the ball in his hands on Iowa’s first possession of the second half.
From there, the 14th-ranked Hawkeyes became the aggressor, with Marble scoring nine points in the first 2 minutes, 5 seconds of the half, propelling them on a run the Gophers were unable to slow in an eventual 94-73 Iowa victory.
“He lit it up for them and got them going,” Gophers senior guard Andre Hollins said. “They didn’t look back from there.”
For Iowa, that’s pretty much business as usual.
Marble, a third-team All-Big Ten pick last season, has taken his game another level of late, averaging 19.0 points per game in the past five in lifting No. 14 Iowa to a potential Big Ten title contender.
Sunday, he finished with 16 points and three rebounds, with his father, Roy Marble — Iowa’s career leading scorer — sitting in the first row across from the benches, cheering on his son.
It didn’t matter that Devyn Marble had managed only a single point in the first half, going 0-for-4 from the field. The dynamic 6-6 guard found a groove at the start of the second, the difference that Iowa needed to pull out its fourth conference victory.
Only 13 seconds in, he was fouled on a basket and made the free throw, a three-point play that sent Elliot Eliason to the bench with three fouls. Marble then made back-to-back three-pointers for a 52-46 lead 2:05 into the half.
Hawkeyes coach Fran McCaffery has learned not to worry about his star, even if he starts slowly. He gives him plenty of offensive freedom — a strategy that paid off again Sunday.
“It’s kind of how we approach coaching him,” McCaffery said. “He can have the ball, he can take it. He can be off the ball, we’ll throw it to him. He’s got the green light to shoot it. He’ll take some bad shots — we’ll live with that. We live with his ability to get to the rim, and I trust his decision-making and his commitment to winning.”
And when Marble gets hot, he gets hot. He went 5-for-10 from the field after halftime, possessing an uncanny ability to hit the big shot in the big moment.
He also had a critical steal when the Gophers were still within nine points with 4:56 to go. It was enough to push the Gophers off their pedestal and keep them off balance for the rest of the game.
“I wanted to come out and be aggressive,” Marble said. “They had the lead in the beginning of the second half, so I just wanted to come out and make a statement and get our defense going. I knew the offense would come, so that’s why I stayed patient and looked for my opportunities.”