Dec. 31, 2013
By JAMES ALLAN
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Good teams make and withstand runs.
The No. 22/23 University of Iowa men's basketball team did both and held off a late second half charge to down Nebraska, 67-57, on Tuesday night in its Big Ten Conference opener on Mediacom Court inside a sold-out Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
The victory is the Hawkeyes' first in a league opener since the 2006-07 season.
"We didn't play a perfect game, but played well enough to win," said UI head coach Fran McCaffery. "You just put it behind you because we've got 17 more."
Senior Roy Devyn Marble led a trio of Iowa players in double figures, netting 15 points on 4-of-12 shooting to go along with a 7-of-11 effort from the free throw stripe. Marble also grabbed a team-high and season-best eight rebounds. Junior Aaron White finished with 13 points -- 11 in the first half -- and seven rebounds, and sophomore Jarrod Uthoff added 11, making 3-of-4 field goal attempts and 5-of-7 free throws.
The Hawkeyes shot 45.8 percent from the floor for the game, making 22-of-48 field goal attempts and 1-of-6 (16.7 percent) 3-point field goals. Iowa attempted 39 free throws, but made just 22, connecting at a 56.4 percent rate. The team's final 12 points came at the charity stripe.
"It's frustrating because we wanted to drive and play in transition," said McCaffery. "We want to throw the ball inside because we have a height advantage. We get to the free throw line 39 times, so we did everything we asked them to do.
"If we make the free throws, it's an easier victory. It's disappointing that we missed 17 times, but at the same time, it's encouraging that we got there 39 times."
Nebraska shot 30.3 percent (20-of-66) from the field and 27.8 percent (5-of-18) from 3-point range. The Huskers made 12-of-18 free throws (66.7 percent) and held a 44-41 advantage on the glass. Forward Terran Petteway led a quartet of Nebraska players in double figures with 20 points and 12 rebounds, while forward Walter Pritchford finished with 13 points and 12 boards.
"That's why we won," said McCaffery of Iowa's defensive effort. "We didn't win because of our rebounding or our 3-point shooting. We won because of our defense."
After taking a 30-23 lead into the half, the Hawkeyes came out of the break strong, pushing their lead to double digits (37-27) over the first three minutes. Sophomore Adam Woodbury scored six of Iowa's first seven points to start the second half. The center finished with eight points in the contest.
Leading 46-35 with 10:17 to play, Iowa broke the game open by reeling off nine straight points to open a 55-35 advantage. Junior Gabriel Olaseni opened the run with a put-back layup before Uthoff followed with five straight points, including an old-school three-point play, to make the score 53-35. White capped the run with a steal and fast-break dunk to push the advantage to 20.
Petteway ended the spurt with a 3-pointer with 7:48 remaining to make it a 55-38 game, and the 3-ball jumpstarted a Husker rally that would see Nebraska climb to within 60-55 with 1:45 to play. Nebraska out-scored Iowa, 20-5, during the six-minute stretch.
The Hawkeyes weathered the storm, making 7-of-10 free throws in the final 1:06 to run out 67-57 winners. The Hawkeyes' final 12 points (over the final 8:16) came from the free throw line.
Iowa jumped out to a 13-7 lead over the first six minutes before the Huskers used an 11-0 spurt to take an 18-13 advantage with 9:29 to play in the half. Nebraska then pushed its lead to 20-14 at the 9:03 mark courtesy of a jumper by Deverell Biggs.
The Hawkeyes answered with a Mike Gesell layup and a steal and fast-break dunk by White to cut the deficit to 20-18 before a pair of White free throws at the 6:18 mark evened the tally at 22. Iowa closed out the half by scoring 8-of-9 points to take a 30-23 advantage into the break.
Iowa (12-2, 1-0) hits the road for its biggest test of the young season, heading to Madison, Wis., on Sunday for a matchup against No. 4/5 Wisconsin. Game time is set for 7 p.m. (CT).