Iowa tops Maryland, 71-60, advances to first NIT championship in school history

BY IAN MARTIN | APRIL 03, 2013 5:00 AM

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NEW YORK — Iowa’s captains led the Hawkeye squad to the program’s first-ever NIT championship game on Tuesday night, as the third-seeded squad defeated Maryland, 71-60.

Iowa (25-12, 9-9 Big Ten) led the Terrapins (25-13, 8-10 ACC) by as many as 14 points and fended away numerous Maryland runs in the Hawkeyes’ first game in Madison Square Garden this millennium.

Captains Devyn Marble and Eric May both scored in the flow of the game and hit timely shots to make sure the semifinal was never a single-possession game after the Hawkeyes went up 9-4 early in the first half.

Marble seemed particularly comfortable in what locals hail as “the world’s most famous arena.” The junior guard dropped 21 points — 12 of which came in the first half.

“He settled everybody else down,” Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery said.

Marble not only hit a number of shots, he also showed off all the arrows in his quiver.

The guard curled and hit a jumper from the elbow with 10 minutes left in the second half that put Iowa up by 7 points, adding to what was, at the time, a slowly evaporating lead.

Later, he put Iowa back up by double-digits with a lay-up. The bucket came after Marble made a 3-pointer in the first half from behind the NBA 3-point line on the Manhattan hardwood.

The Michigan native said he’s been focused only on hoops despite it being his first trip to the Big Apple.

“I haven’t really walked around [New York City] too much,” he said. “They’ve given us that opportunity, but I just wanted to play.”

May also continued his solid NIT play — he hasn’t committed a single turnover in more than 120 minutes of play — with a very efficient stretch in the second half.

He had a highlight-reel-worthy breakaway dunk that brought the Black and Gold fans to their feet. But perhaps a play just before his slam better demonstrated his importance and basketball IQ.

Maryland trailed by just 8 points. May had the ball after trailing in transition and realized he had 6-8 Terrapin forward Charles Mitchell guarding him. The Dubuque native hit a quick pull-up jumper before Mitchell could put his hand up.

The only scholarship senior on the roster also made both of his free-throw attempts in the last five minutes of the game, then made a top-of-the-key 3 with 1:01 remaining to secure Iowa’s date with Baylor on Thursday night.

“He’s been playing like that all year long,” McCaffery said. “Defensively, offensively — he did everything right tonight.”

Maryland made numerous runs in the game, but it held no leads after the 18:25 mark of the first half; the Terps had scored the game’s first 4 points.

Coming out of a time-out down 13 points near the end of the first half, Maryland began to use 7-1 center Alex Len more in the low post to create offense. It resulted in open long-range looks for senior Logan Aronhalt and an effective offense for the Terrapins, as well as a halftime deficit of just five points.

Maryland’s Nick Faust hit a 3-pointer with just under 12 minutes to go in the second half to bring his team within 4.

Len willed the Terrapins back within 6 with just over two minutes remaining in the game, but his team-high 16 points weren’t enough.

Just Marble, May, and their head coach took the podium to speak after Iowa’s 25th win — which tied the second most in school history. And while a year of progress is close to an end, as is May’s career, the senior captain on the team is as stoic as ever.

“I can’t complain [about a victory],” May said. “If we win Thursday, it’ll be a lot better.”

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