Hawkeye men's basketball holds off Illini, 63-55

BY TOM CLOS | MARCH 06, 2013 5:00 AM

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The Hawkeyes knew they had to sweep both of their remaining home games if they were to have any chance at breaking the school’s seven-year NCAA Tournament absence following their loss at Indiana.

One down, one to go.

Junior guard Devyn Marble led all scorers with 21 points, 6 rebounds, and 4 assists as the Iowa men’s basketball team picked up a big 63-55 victory over Illinois in Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Tuesday evening.

The Hawkeyes (19-11, 8-9 Big Ten) have won two of their last three games and pulled into a tie with the Fighting Illini (21-10, 8-9) for seventh-place in the conference standings with the win.

Sophomore Josh Oglesby scored 10 points off the bench, but none were bigger than the 6 he scored in the final stages of the contest.

With the Hawkeyes clinging to a 48-46 lead, the much-maligned Oglesby — who was 0-for-5 from 3-point range at the time — hit a contested trey as the shot clock wound down to jolt Iowa’s lead to five with 4:01 remaining.

He wasn’t done.

On the next trip down, the sophomore found an opening and drained another shot from downtown, pushing the Black and Gold to an 8-point advantage they would never relinquish.

Marble, who is just 2 points shy from joining his father as the only father-son tandem in Big Ten history to score 1,000 career points, said Oglesby’s big-time baskets were a huge load off the star player’s shoulders.

“Josh was able to give us a little breathing room by making those shots,” Marble said. “Because of it, we were able to withstand their run late.”

The Hawkeyes shot only 28 percent in the second half but were able to pull away down the stretch thanks to a supreme defensive effort, primarily by the team’s big men.

Iowa tied a school-record with 12 blocked shots, thanks mostly to sophomore forward Gabe Olaseni, who surpassed his total block mark in conference play entering tonight by swatting away 6.

“The coaches gave me four things to focus on: running the floor, rebounding, playing good defense, and finishing around the rim,” Olaseni said. “I finished around the rim once or twice and obviously defended well so I’m pretty happy with the way I played.”

Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery was amazed with Olaseni’s performance and noted that the Hawkeyes’ depth has really helped them grind out games this season when their offense has dried up.

“Last year, we would have lost 77-63 if we shot 28 percent in the second half and played the defense the way we played last year,” McCaffery said. “So it’s showing you the team has really grown and we’re obviously much deeper.”

Freshman center Adam Woodbury scored the game’s first 4 points, and White scored the Hawkeyes’ next 5 as Iowa jumped out to an early 9-3 advantage.

The lead ballooned to as much as 11 at 15-4 after a Marble dunk at the 8:40 mark, then the Hawks led by 10, 22-12, with 6:31 remaining.

Illinois responded, however, with a 16-6 run during the latter stages of the half to claim a 28-27 advantage before Iowa jumped ahead in the final minute.

Junior forward Melsahn Basabe’s turnaround jumper with 48 seconds remaining gave the Hawkeyes the lead, then junior forward Zach McCabe hit a lay-up as time expired to give the home team to a 31-28 advantage at the intermission.

“A little disturbing we held them to 26 percent shooting in the first half but were only up 3,” McCaffery said. “But we settled down in the second and did what we needed to do.”

Heavy emotions filled Carver-Hawkeye Arena Tuesday evening as a throng of Illini fans stormed into Iowa City to witness another renewal of this heated rivalry.

But the most important emotion felt on this night would be the sigh of relief from the 15,400 in attendance who knew their Hawkeyes held on to a much needed NCAA Tournament résumé-boosting victory.

“They were top-30 RPI team, almost ranked and have great players, so this was a good test for us,“ Marble said. “But it was very important because it was our next game.”

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