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Iowa 77, Xavier 74: The Thanksgiving Comeback

Recapping Iowa's win over Xavier in basketball on Thanksgiving night in the Battle for Atlantis.

Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

After the Penn win, Ross asked, "What's the sign of a good team?" The answer that night was "the ability to win easily despite not playing all that well." Iowa had the not playing all that well down for a good chunk of the game and did not win easily. But what a win it was. Iowa didn't hold in the entire game until Gabe Olaseni made a free throw a minute into the overtime. They started the game down 6, were down by 7 at halftime, and trailed by 13 with just over 10 minutes left in regulation.

Then Roy Devyn Marble took over. He, up until that point, had already been Iowa's entire offense, but sparked 12-0 run with a three, followed by a steal on the press with a pretty over the head pass to Aaron White for the dunk. After a miss by Xavier, Marble hit another three, got another steal, then after missing a jumper got fouled and made 2 free throws. After back-to-back-to-back turnovers, Marble found Malsahn Basabe for an easy dunk and Iowa was down just 55-54.

Marble finished the game with a game-high 30 points on 10-23 shooting, with 4 made threes. He struggled all game with cramps and left early and didn't return, even in the OT. Super huge credit goes to the guys that found a way to win in the extra period without Marble. Mike Gesell had a key jumper in the lane to put Iowa up with 2:14 left and pushed the pace on the next possession that set up an Aaron White tip in. It got a little worrisome at the end there where Xavier had 3 attempts at a game-tying trey, but luckily none fell.

The other real star of the game was Olaseni. Adam Woodbury had a terrible outing. He had some phantom fouls called and a couple legitimate ones and fouled out with just 2 points and 1 rebound in 11 minutes. Five fouls in 11 minutes is a truly Brommer-ian achievement. Olaseni stepped up big time. He has a monster on the boards with a game-high of 11 rebounds. He also had 4 blocks. His aggressiveness paid off as well. Even though he was just 1 of 5 from the field he got to the line a lot. He made 8 of 9 free throws including a few critical ones in OT to finish with 10 points.

Iowa put itself in the bad position with sloppy play in the first half. The defense was slow getting back, leading to a lot of easy transition buckets for Xavier. The offense also struggled, scoring just 30 points, most of those coming from Marble. Then, going into half, Fran was I guess (they never showed it on TV) yelling at the officials (and rightfully was not a well officiated game), and got T’d up. That gave Xavier 2 free throws and the ball to start the second half. And things looked bad, putting Iowa down 9 very quickly. If Iowa hadn’t won this game, we might be asking about those 2 free points, but Fran’s wrath must have had some impact on the team, because they played much better the last 10 minutes of regulation and the OT.

Speaking of WOF...he went OFF on a grad assistant coach. Like all crazy eyes and scary like. I don’t think the kid did anything, but he took the brunt of it after a bad call from the officials. Better him than another T.

But in the second half, Iowa’s defense started to shut down Xavier using the 3-quarters press. It mostly just slowed Xavier down a little, but they did manage to get a few turnovers off of it. Iowa was also lucky that Semaj Christon missed most of the second half with what looked liking cramping issues as well. (With 3 games in 3 days, hopefully cramping isn’t an issue for other players as well...especially Marble. ) Iowa also started getting more aggressive with the ball and was able to get to the line. In the first half, Iowa struggled from the line, but finished the game 23 of 34 (and were 4 of 6 in the OT).

Other thoughts:

  • Zach McCabe had a nice game also filling in some for Woodbury. He fouled out as well, but had a big three and 5 straight points with about 5 minutes to go that kept Iowa within 1.
  • Gesell struggled early missing his first 3 shots (maybe more), but stepped up and led the team nicely at the end of the game and in OT when Marble was out. He was a little sloppy at the end when waiting to be fouled, but it didn’t end up mattering.
  • Where was Jared Uthoff? He played 17 minutes and most, if not all, of the OT, but didn’t score a single point. He contributed on the boards and had a steal and an assist, but after the big game against Penn I was expecting more.
  • Anthony Clemmons also had a quite night, but played 29 minutes. He had a couple of free throws, but really contributed dishing the ball and finished with a game-high 7 assists.
  • WOOHOO!! HAPPY THANKSGIVING!!! Bring on the Tennessee-UTEP winner. And then, hopefully, Kansas.

So, I’m not sure we have definitively answered Ross’s question tonight, but I think it’s safe to say, Iowa finding a way over Xavier was a sign that Iowa is a good team.