DES MOINES (AP) — Iowa certainly can't count on 30 points out of Devyn Marble every night.
But if the Hawkeyes can get their junior swingman to perform like he did against Northern Iowa on a consistent basis, they're going to be a handful in the Big Ten.
Marble scored 30, one shy of a career high, and Iowa beat Northern Iowa 80-73 Saturday in the inaugural Big Four Classic.
Freshman Mike Gesell, out of South Sioux City, Neb., added a career-best 23 points for the Hawkeyes (9-2), who have won four in a row after a brief two-game skid in late November.
Marble had just six points in Iowa's last outing, an 80-71 win over Iowa State, but he exploded against the Panthers (6-4). Marble sank 14 free throws, buried four 3-pointers and turned it over just once.
“I got into a rhythm,” he said. “I wanted to come out and be aggressive.”
Iowa buried a season-high nine 3-pointers in the first half alone, jumping ahead 40-32. The Panthers stayed close for much of the second half but couldn't quite erase Iowa's lead.
Deon Mitchell had 23 points to lead Northern Iowa, whose losses have come against Louisville, Stanford, Memphis and the Hawkeyes.
The Panthers kept trying to chip away behind bruising forward Seth Tuttle, who scored 10 of his 18 points in the second half and also had a team-high nine rebounds.
But Northern Iowa's defense simply had no answers for Marble and his teammates.
A jumper from Melsahn Basabe and a 3-pointer from Aaron White — who struggled through one of his worst offensive games of the year — helped put Iowa back in front 66-55 with just more than four minutes left.
White finished with just seven points for Iowa. But the Hawkeyes hit 12 free throws in the final 1:52, including 10 from Marble and Gesell.
Marble's effort earned a salute from Iowa coach Fran McCaffery.
“What was amazing with him is I didn't rest him very much and he seemed to have an incredible energy level the entire time,” McCaffery said. “It just looked to me like he was really determined to make sure we won the game.”
Iowa entered play shooting a rather pedestrian 44.2 percent from the field — including just 30 percent from 3-point range.
But the Hawkeyes hit their first five 3s and 10 of their first 14 shots, a stretch highlighted by a Marble 3 from the elbow that forced Northern Iowa coach Ben Jacobson to call a timeout in an effort to cool off the Hawkeyes.
Iowa turned it over 13 times in the first 20 minutes. But all those 3s — combined with Marble's versatile scoring — covered up all those miscues.
“Once I started making shots, they had to play tighter and closer, then I'm going to go around them,” Marble said. “Posting up, cutting, finding different ways to score, just taking what the defense gave. Against Iowa State, I thought I was little too relaxed and just let them do what they wanted to do. Today I said 'I'm going to do what I'm going to do.'”
Anthony James had 15 points for the Panthers, who went just 3 of 16 from 3-point range. Iowa finished 12 of 25 on 3s — with 7 of those makes coming from Marble and Gesell in the first half — and turned it over just twice in the second half.
“The difference in the first half, and maybe the difference in the game, was the early stretch with Marble and Gesell,” Jacobson said. Gesell “has been a very good shooter when he's been able to catch and shoot with his feet set, and we allowed him to do that too many times early in the game.”
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