Iowa heads into the third round of the NIT on the heels of some hot shooting.
Iowa's grand NIT adventure isn't over just yet. Just two night after toppling Indiana State in opening round NIT action, Iowa dispatched Stony Brook, 75-63, in second-round NIT action in front of another sellout crowd. The win gave Iowa a season-record 18 home wins, a feat achieved primarily as a result of scheduling a ton of home games in the non-conference slate (against very poor teams) and getting two additional home games in the NIT Tournament. Still, if the record is a bit hollow, it's also a nice testament to the tremendous fan support Iowa has received at Carver-Hawkeye Arena this year. The fan turnout all year has been excellent, especially in the NIT, and there's no doubt that they've helped to make CHA a very, very difficult place for opposing teams to play again.
The game started with both teams shooting the ball well -- Stony Brook made four of their first five shots, while Iowa made seven of their first nine shots. Roy Devyn Marble picked up right where he left off on Wednesday night, scoring 10 points on the first four minutes of the game. Predictably, both teams cooled off after those torrid starts, with Iowa maintaining a slender lead for most of the first half. Stony Brook led briefly late in the half, 28-25, but Iowa quickly regained the lead at 30-28 and led 37-34 at halftime. Iowa never trailed in the second half, after a pair of Stony Brook free throws tied the game at 41-41 four minutes into the half, Iowa went on a 13-3 lead that gave them control of the game. Iowa wasn't able to finally put the Sea Wolves away until late, but the lead was never less than four points after that 13-3 run and Iowa did a solid job of answering every Stony Brook charge in the second half.
Both teams shot the ball well: 24/51 (47.1%) for Stony Brook, 26/55 (47.3%) for Iowa. This was the rare game where Iowa's long-range shooting was connecting, too -- Iowa went 8/19 (42.1%) from 3 (compared to 6/16, 37.5%, for the Sea Wolves). Those numbers might suggest that Iowa's usually stout defense wasn't very sharp in this game, but I didn't think that was the case -- Iowa forced Stony Brook into difficult shots, but the Sea Wolves made a stunning amount of those shots. They made several rainbow 3s, and long, off-balance jumpers -- there's not a lot you can do about that. Predictably, those shots stopped falling with quite as much frequency in the second half, which allowed Iowa to stretch its lead.
Marble was again the star of the show, going for 28 points on 9/18 shooting, and adding a team-high 5 assists, 2 steals, and 2 rebounds as well. He continues his red-hot play in the NIT: through four games over the last two years, Marble is averaging 23 ppg (on 54% FG shooting), 3.5 rpg, 4.8 apg, and 2 steals per game and he's scored at least 24 points in each of the last three NIT games. In my recap of the Indiana State win, I noted that Iowa would go as far as in the NIT as Marble could carry them, but performances like these can certainly carry Iowa pretty damn far. This is the RDM we hoped to see at the beginning of the season and while there some bumps along the way, it's great to see him ending this season on such a high note.
Marble's main sidekick was again Aaron White, who had 13 points and 7 rebounds. White hasn't been quite as dominant in this year's NIT as he was in last year's event (when he had 47 points and 19 rebounds over two games), but he's still averaging a double-double (12 ppg, 10 rpg) in the NIT this year. Zach McCabe has continued his trend of sneaky-good play in the NIT, too, with another 8 point game on 2/3 3-point shooting. Mike Gesell came off the bench to play 19 minutes and contributed 5 points and 3 assists; I thought he looked a bit less-gimpy than he was against Indiana State, too. (Fran seemed to agree, since he had Gesell in at the end of the game.) Finally, with Gesell being limited, Eric May got another start and stuffed the stat sheet nicely: 4 pts, 4 rebounds, 4 assists (and, er, 4 fouls). He also got a very deserving standing ovation from the crowd after being subbed off in the final seconds.
In all, a very nice win for the Hawkeyes. Stony Brook is a very solid team (#55 in the most recent KenPom ratings) and they forced Iowa to play well to beat them. Iowa did just that, putting together one of their strongest overall games of the season. It was also a very fun game to watch; the ESPNU announcers noted that the game had "a good flow," and that was very true -- this game was not plodding, or dull, or slowed-to-a-Bo-Ryan-approved-crawl. It was up and down and energetic and just very enjoyable basketball.
Now we wait to see who they'll play next. A third-round game against either St. John's or Virginia awaits. St. John's plays Virginia on Sunday; if the Johnnies win, Iowa will get to host a third home game in the NIT, but if the Cavaliers win, Iowa will head to Charlottesville for a chance to play in the NIT semifinals in New York City.