IOWA CITY — Perhaps Sunday’s victory was only a taste of what the future holds, but Iowa Coach Fran McCaffery will take his bite now.
Iowa’s youth came alive in a 91-77 win against Indiana on Sunday with freshmen scoring 43 of Iowa’s points. Iowa freshmen Melsahn Basabe and Devyn Marble combined for 38 points and shot 15-of-23 from the floor.
Basabe posted his fourth double-double of the season with 20 points and 10 rebounds. Marble split time at both guard positions and tallied 20 minutes.
“The fact that the younger players are such an integral part I think will help them,” McCaffery said. “The fact that so many people were involved in the win I think will help us collectively.”
Basabe originally committed to McCaffery at Siena, but backed out when McCaffery left for Iowa. McCaffery had to resell his system to Marble, the son of Iowa’s all-time leading scorer Roy Marble. Later McCaffery shifted Marble from off-guard to play both guard slots when original point guard Cully Payne had surgery to repair a sports hernia.
Both sophomore Eric May and junior Matt Gatens noted how the freshmen are starting to blend with the holdovers and making an impact. Basabe averages 10.2 points and a team-high 7 rebounds a game, while Marble puts up 5.9 points a game.
“We’ve got some good young talent and some good vets,” said Gatens, who scored 19 against Indiana. “Guys like Zach (McCabe) and Mel and Marble, all those guys are starting to play well and getting used to things. It’s an adjustment changing over from high school to Big Ten basketball. You’re playing some of the best teams in the country. They’re doing better. They’re adjusting and working hard. It’s good for them to get some confidence.”
Marble’s play Sunday impressed May.
“He attacked the basket, got them in foul trouble. And he rebounds,” May said. “He’s really long, so he’s able to make some plays that smaller guards really can’t defend.”
Marble, a 6-foot-6 guard, hails from the Detroit area. He played the point in high school and was also his team’s primary scorer. On Sunday, he parlayed the skills he learned at Southfield Lathrup High School into points.
“I always had the ball in my hands (in high school), so I did a lot of stuff off the dribble,” Marble said. “Not so much set shooting. It’s much easier shooting off the dribble for me.
“(Sunday) reminded me of high school. It did, it did. But it’s not going to be easy every night. You’ve got to keep working.”
Beyond the freshman, Iowa’s other players rewarded McCaffery for his faith in them. May as struggled in Big Ten play since injuring a groin muscle against Illinois. May followed a disappointing scoreless effort at Ohio State with 11 points, including a pair of dunks, and five rebounds against Indiana.
McCaffery was thrilled with May’s output considering the Dubuque native had struggled with his confidence lately.
“I think with him, he’s never got down on himself,” McCaffery said. “Even though he’s been struggling, he knows he’s struggling, I know he’s struggling, he keeps plugs and he keeps working and he believes in himself and he’s always been a scorer. He just knew a day like this was coming, and now I think he’ll settle down and have more opportunities to do exactly what he did today.”
It’s only one game and one Big Ten victory, but the output and ability of Marble and Basabe excites McCaffery.“I think you throw McCabe in there — he’s a terrific freshman — and Eric May is only a sophomore,” McCaffery said. “So we have got some pieces that I’m really excited about. We have two good ones (incoming freshmen Aaron White and Josh Oglesby) coming in. Little by little we’ll put it together, and we’ll get it done.”