By Ryan Probasco
Fans and followers of the Iowa basketball program had been waiting, begging for a home victory over one of the Big Ten’s finest programs.
On Saturday, Hawkeye senior guard seemed motivated to take matters into his own hands. And by the time Iowa was running towards the locker room with a 14-point halftime lead, Marble had dropped 22 points, which included six three-pointers.
“That was a Player of the Year candidate performance today,” Michigan head coach John Beilein said of Marble’s effort. “He is a really good senior, and Iowa is blessed to have a player like him. He is hungry because Iowa was so close last year. It is players like him that are going to make it happen. He is tremendous.”
Marble finished Iowa’s 85-67 domination of No. 10 Michigan with 26 points, marking the eleventh-straight game in which he’s reached double figures in scoring.
Outside of the first half shooting spree, Marble was also terrific on the defensive end. Against Michigan on Jan. 22, it was decided that Marble wouldn’t guard Michigan’s leading scorer Nik Stauskas.
Stauskas finished that game with 26 points. But on Saturday, with Marble on his hip for much of the contest, Stauskas was limited to just 10 points in 35 minutes.
“I just wanted to limit his touches,” Marble said of guarding Stauskas. “A lot of people feel he’s the best player in our conference. I just wanted to put my say in there without having to say a word. I just wanted to come out and make it tough on him to get the ball and score. The guys helped me out a lot; it’s not just me. Without their help, I can’t do my job.”
Marble’s performance highlighted Iowa’s much needed victory over the Wolverines. But in many ways, the Hawkeyes’ win was the definition of a team effort.
Sophomore point guard Mike Gesell finished with 10 points and 8 assists. Aaron White had 11 points and 8 rebounds. And Iowa’s frontcourt combined to outrebound Michigan 38-29, which included 15 offensive rebounds.
“It was a big game; we’ve done a great job bouncing back after our losses,” junior forward Aaron White said. “We just came out with great energy. With a team like this, you have to take them out of their rhythm … We’ve had games where we’ve gotten up big and let it slip away. This one, it was great to keep them down as we got up.”
After dropping its previous two home contests, it felt as if Iowa was playing with the sense of urgency necessary to contend in what many believe is the best college basketball conference in the country.
The win moved Iowa to 6-0 after its losses. And it also meant Iowa has beaten AP top 10 teams twice in a season for the first time since 1990-91.
To Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery, the win represented the cumulative effort and dedication Iowa has given to the program. And the type of response Iowa offered after a tough loss to Ohio State was exactly what it needed to avoid another home defeat.
“I think we have a belief in ourselves that there’s never any panic and I think we have a willingness to look within ourselves and say, okay, we lost, we are not a group of finger pointers,” McCaffery said. “They don’t blame each other, they don’t blame me.
“They look at the film and they study it and try to get better and they are honest with themselves. I think if you do that, you are more likely to be able to come back and play better in the next game.”