DES MOINES - UNI Coach Ben Jacobson captured Roy Devyn Marble's Saturday performance in one word when he was asked what the Iowa guard was able to do against his team.
"Everything," Jacobson said.
Big games often call for strong performances from star players. The Hawkeyes leading scorer started well and never let up in a 80-73 victory. Marble, a junior, netted 30 points, one off of his career-best, in the inaugural Big Four Classic here at Wells Fargo Arena.
"It just looked to me that he was just really determined to make sure we won the game," Iowa Coach Fran McCaffery said.
Marble added four rebounds, two assists and two blocked shots. He sank 14 of 19 free throw attempts.
"I wanted to come out and be aggressive," Marble said. "Coach Andrew (Francis) told me to come out smart and aggressive at the same time. I feel like I did a really good job of that."
Freshman Mike Gesell complemented Marble's day with a career-high 23 points. Together, the duo connected on 8 of 15 three-point attempts. Iowa was a season-best 12 for 25 from behind the arc.
"They wanted to play me a little different and backed off a little bit," Marble said. "They're shorter than me so I just shot over them. I was comfortable doing that. I've been working on my shot."
Aaron White grabbed a game-high nine rebounds to go with seven points for the winners. The Hawkeyes (9-2) also received strong contributions from its bench. Senior Eric May dished out seven assists without a turnover.
"Eric has been through a lot in terms of experience," McCaffery said. "He knows how to play against these guys. He drove the ball and he broke the defense down and made plays."
Iowa enjoyed a 40-32 halftime lead with Marble and Gesell combining for 25 points in the opening 20 minutes. The Hawkeyes went up 11 points six minutes into the second half.
UNI (6-4) showed the never-day-die attitude that's made it one of the top mid-majors in the country for awhile. The Panthers were within four points of the lead with eight minutes on the clock.
The Hawkeyes responded with a 9-0 run. Melsahn Basabe hit a foul-line jumper, White knocked down a 3-pointer, Marble dropped in two free throws and Gesell eased in a lay-up that gave them an 13-point lead with four minutes to play. They connected on enough free throws from there to seal the win.
It would have been tough to wipe the smile off of May's face after the final horn. The Dubuque native appreciated that Iowa had defeated UNI and Iowa State in the last eight days.
"It's huge to go out like that with the in-state games," May said. "It's part of basketball, winning those rivalry games in-state. It was a good crowd and beating a good team like that is just really exciting."
Iowa will be heavily favored to win its last two non-conference games before playing host to Indiana in the Big Ten opener on New Year's Eve. The Hawkeyes appear to have built some momentum for the first time in a long time.
"It really means something," said junior Zach McCabe, who added five points and five rebounds off of the bench on Saturday. "Losing by 20 to (UNI in 2011) and Iowa State wasn't good for us either last year, it was out goal to get these two wins. Everything is going well for us right now."
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