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IOWA CITY — Thursday night, they were the Magnificent Seven.
With the Iowa men's basketball team using just seven players against No. 25 Ohio State, the two who didn't start stood just as tall in the saddle as the five who did.
Subs Bakari Evelyn and Cordell Pemsl, who came in averaging a combined 5.4 points per game, had 15 and 9, respectively, in Iowa's 85-76 win over No. 25 Ohio State Thursday at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
'Those two were spectacular,' Iowa Coach Fran McCaffery said. 'Cordell and Bakari were phenomenal tonight. We don't win the game without them. They did it at both ends. Cordell got eight rebounds, nine points. Bakari hit 3s, but (also) driving the ball, making great decisions.'
Don't dismiss the five starters who helped prop the Hawkeyes to 19-8 overall and 10-6 in the Big Ten. They shot crisply and defended smartly in staking their team to a 16-3 lead before Pemsl entered the game at the 14:32 mark and tipped in a Joe Wieskamp miss 16 seconds later.
Evelyn entered the game a minute after Pemsl. He splashed in a 3-pointer with 10:08 left in the half for a 27-8 Iowa advantage.
It was Pemsl's best scoring night since Nov. 24, and it was the first time Evelyn had topped 5 points at Carver. Both performances were needed with guard CJ Fredrick still out with a sprained ankle and the OSU defense focusing a lot on wing Wieskamp.
'I'm so proud of those guys,' said Hawkeye center Luka Garza, who had a game-high 24 points and 4 assists. 'You see them in practice and they make moves and they do things that you want to translate to the floor.'
Garza said Pemsl 'played with a lot of confidence tonight and he's getting back to what he's done in the past."
Evelyn, said Garza, 'has stayed the course this entire year. He's had ups and downs. His mental toughness is something that has improved dramatically.
'He's a really gifted player. I knew that since he stepped on campus, that he was going to be someone who could help us out.'
Iowa led by at least 10 points for most of the game. CJ Walker hit a 3-pointer to pull the Buckeyes (17-9, 7-8) within 51-42 with 17:13 left, but the Hawkeyes' lead shot back up to 14 when Evelyn made another 3-pointer and then Pemsl stole the ball and scored on a flashy spin move.
'I'm back. I'm back, I'm back, I'm back,' Pemsl said to his teammates as he made his way back to the defensive end of the court.
'Just letting them know I've still got it in my bag,' he said. 'They did, they just wanted to see me do it, so I finally did it and everybody was happy about it.'
Iowa's lead grew as large as 19 points in the second half, and was never cut to less than 7.
Counting redshirt seasons, graduate transfer Evelyn and junior Pemsl have nine college years between them. It showed Thursday when they were aggressive, yet controlled.
'At this level, experience plays a big part of it,' Pemsl said. 'Knowing different situations, game styles, being able to prepare, the long season — it's a grind.'
'It's me just getting more comfortable with the system, with the guys, how they want to play, how I can be effective in it,' Evelyn said. 'It's all kind of clicking right now.'
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