Commentary: Hawkeyes show off balanced attack

BY IAN MARTIN | JANUARY 24, 2011 7:10 AM

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After three straight games that most would consider a step back for rebuilding Iowa, Sunday’s win against Indiana finally felt like a leap forward.

Not only was it the first Big Ten win for Fran McCaffery, Iowa’s 700th Big Ten victory, and of course the first victory of 2011, but most importantly the victory showed the model for how to get a win in the Big Ten.

The formula is simple: Take your two best scorers — for Iowa that’s Melsahn Basabe and Matt Gatens — and then also get some important contributions from two or three other role players.

For the Hawkeyes on Sunday, they had the usual two. Basabe with 20 points and 10 rebounds, and Gatens posted a somehow-quiet 19 points.

But those types of nights are the expectation.

It was an oddly easy 18 points by freshman Roy Devyn Marble, along with 11 points from sophomore Eric May — including two scintillating dunks — that really made the Indiana game differ from others thus far in conference play.

May and Marble’s nights were seemingly a matter of comfort.

May is finally comfortable after a groin injury sustained late in December, and he is back to hustling on the fastbreak. While he’s not the second best player on the team anymore, he is beginning to demonstrate why he belongs in a Big Ten starting lineup.

It’s the same with Marble. He looks awkward running backup point guard — a necessity with the injury to Cully Payne — but he finally looked comfortable once again when eviscerating the Hoosiers’ defense for bucket after bucket off the dribble. This aggression is what the coaching staff has wanted from Marble. For much of the early part of the season, the crowd gasped if he shot a 3-pointer, or even if he tried to do too much with the ball.

But finally, it seems he understands that less is more, and picking the right spots to drive will result in a better flow of the game.

“[Marble] was aggressive from the start,” McCaffery said. “That’s what we have been trying to get him to do, just be aggressive.”

If Marble can maintain this attitude, the coach said, it will result in more playing time for the freshman.

And that might be just what Iowa needs to keep succeeding.

It’s not going to be a big night from Marble every game. It could be center Andrew Brommer, who has had a couple of double-digit efforts this season. Or maybe Bryce Cartwright, who always seems to get good shots but has trouble knocking them down.

Really, Iowa just can’t rely on Gatens and/or Basabe every game. Sure, they’ll put up their combined 30, but if the rest of the team only has 20, then it’s tough to win a Division-I basketball game.

Still, if Sunday’s Indiana game is any indication, Iowa shouldn’t be too worried about finding a third, and maybe even fourth, banana to complement its best two players.

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