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Notebook: Cartwright integral to Iowa's success

BY BEN SCHUFF | MARCH 07, 2012 6:30 AM

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Bryce Cartwright needs to be an integral part of the offense if Iowa is going to beat Illinois in the first round of the Big Ten tournament on Thursday.

 

The Hawkeyes struggled to convert on fast-break opportunities early in their visit to Champaign, Ill., on Feb 26, and squandered a chance to build a sizable lead before normal Illinois starters Brandon Paul and Meyers Leonard entered the game from the bench.

Cartwright finished that contest with 2 assists in 14 minutes.

A different Cartwright was on display about a week later, when the point guard recorded 8 assists in a start against Northwestern. That Cartwright ran Iowa's fast break to near-perfection as he founding open shooting chances for teammates.

"All good point guards make players around them better," fellow guard Matt Gatens said on Monday.

And that's exactly what Cartwright has done in Iowa's wins. He dished out 73 assists in the 15 Hawkeye victories in which he played; he tallied just 49 in 13 losses.

Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery said he is "probably leaning toward" starting Cartwright against the Illini, which would be the senior's second start in about a month. He missed games against Penn State and Indiana in mid-February with an injured ankle and came off the bench upon returning before starting against Northwestern on Senior Day.

"He has had a very unique season in light of his injury situation," McCaffery said. "I'm proud of how he persevered, because he certainly had high expectations for himself — and we had higher expectations for him. But it was all out of his control."

A sellout crowd of 15,400 saw just how important Cartwright can be for McCaffery's offense when the Hawkeyes hosted Northwestern. The Compton, Calif., native was forced to the bench with a pair of fouls at the 4:33 mark of the first half and Iowa up, 33-23. When Cartwright came back in with 1:33 to play until halftime, the Wildcats had taken a 36-33 lead.

Costly turnovers played a role in Iowa's three-minute drought, but the Hawkeye offense wasn't the same without Cartwright's leadership on the floor.

"Our running game is so much better when he's out there," McCaffery said.

Marble, May working back for tournament

Guard Devyn Marble and forward Eric May should both be available for Thursday's first round of the Big Ten Tournament.

Marble banged his left elbow on an opponent on March 3, causing the sophomore to lose feeling in his hand. He played through the injury but said after Iowa's 70-66 loss that he didn't have full feeling back in his fingers. The sophomore said on Monday that he'll be good to go against Illinois, despite still having a "tingly" feeling.

May is a different story; the junior has been battling back spasms for several weeks.

The junior started and played double-digit minutes in Iowa's first 21 games. Since then, May has seen 10 or more minutes in one of the team's past seven contests.

"I don't think he's doing great," McCaffery said. "He's really trying. He's better than he was, but he has no explosion — which is what his game is."

McCaffery recalled a play against Illinois on Feb. 26 in which May caught a pass near the left wing on a fast break; instead of attacking the hoop aggressively, he dribbled under the rim before passing the ball back out to the perimeter.

"He's just not [himself]," the second year head coach said. "Eric May would have normally gone up there, but he just kicked it back out … he's lacing them up and giving us some quality minutes, but he's not himself."

Follow DI men's basketball reporter Ben Schuff on Twitter.


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