Hoops wants to continue scoring at Penn State

BY IAN MARTIN | JANUARY 26, 2011 7:10 AM

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Fresh off its first Big Ten win in more than nine months, Iowa will now try to accomplish something it hasn’t done since the Steve Alford era: a conference win streak.

On Feb. 7, 2007, the Hawkeyes posted a 91-78 victory at Minnesota — oddly reminiscent of the 91-77 score Iowa had in the win against Indiana on Sunday — to push the team’s winning streak to three.

But since that day, stringing together consecutive Big Ten wins hasn’t been tasted in Iowa City.
And if ever there was a time for a run, it’s now.

At least for a while, Iowa (8-11, 1-6) is out of the tall trees of the conference after playing five of its first six league games against ranked opponents.

Now the Hawkeyes face Penn State, led by one of the Big Ten’s best guards in Talor Battle. While the game against the Nittany Lions (10-8, 3-4) isn’t a Southern Illinois-Edwardsville type of affair, Iowa should play better after gaining confidence in this past weekend’s victory.

“[The Indiana] win was important for us,” Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery said during the Big Ten’s weekly teleconference. “We had so many different players score. We’ve had our scoring droughts and didn’t have any.”

McCaffery is referring to the team having an unusual four players in double-figures, the most surprising of those being freshman Roy Devyn Marble, who finished with 18 points.

The young Marble began showing the scoring prowess he was known for in high school, besting his previous season-high of 11.

Much of Marble’s struggles this season have come from having to play some point guard in Cully Payne’s absence. It doesn’t seem, though, that he’s going to have any more reservations when it comes to confidence in shot selection.

“A lot of people think I’ve been timid and passing up shots, and I have,” he said. “But that’s my role right now. Now that I’m being more aggressive, I will take more of those shots.”

It’s unrealistic to expect Iowa to be within striking distance of 100 points every night, but that doesn’t mean the team can’t expect distributed scoring from people besides Matt Gatens and Melsahn Basabe.

Perhaps less importantly, the scoring burst will begin to elicit respect in a conference in which there aren’t many teams known for scoring. At least that’s what Penn State head coach Ed DeChellis conveyed when asked about Iowa during the Big Ten teleconference.

He called the scoring effort of Iowa “impressive” and added, “We’ll have our hands full Wednesday night.”

Whether Iowa can re-create the scoring for two-straight games is unknown, but there will be at least one thing guaranteed to come together tonight: This game will serve as a reunion of sorts for McCaffery and DeChellis.

The longtime friends met during various assistant jobs, then coached against each other in the Southern Conference in the early part of the decade. McCaffery was the coach at North Carolina-Greensboro from 1999-2005, and DeChellis coached East Tennessee State from 1996-2003.

But the head of the Nittany Lion pride laughed when asked if he was getting any flashbacks checking out film of the Hawkeyes in preparation for tonight’s game.

“That’s a long time ago,” he said during the same teleconference. “I have a hard time remembering last week.”

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