IOWA CITY — Devyn Marble figures it would be easy for the Iowa basketball team to feel sorry for itself. He also knows it wouldn’t be right.
“We’re getting sick of losing and we have to get that mentality, take that sick-of-losing approach and use it to turn things around,” Marble said Friday.
Stung by late-game collapses at Minnesota and in double overtime at Wisconsin already this week, the Hawkeyes get a chance to do that turnaround today when they host Northwestern at 3:30 p.m.
Iowa owns a 70-50 win over the Wildcats this season, but at 3-7 in the Big Ten and with five losses by four points or less in conference play, the Hawkeyes aren’t taking anything for granted.
“There isn’t a sense of desperation, but there is a need for us to have more of a sense of urgency,” junior Zach McCabe said. “The last couple of games, we’ve had chances to close things out early and we haven’t gotten that done. We can’t keep putting ourselves in those situations.”
Coach Fran McCaffery doesn’t believe he is dealing with a team which has lost its mental edge.
In general, he has been pleased with the way his team has played recently up to the point where it has lost late-game leads.
“If you battle, you can stay in games when you’re not shooting it well. If you’re not shooting it well and you soften up, then you’re going to get drilled,” McCaffery said. “These guys are showing a lot of fight in that respect.”
He points to the way Iowa has competed since getting blown out 95-67 at Michigan on Jan. 6 as an example. In the Hawkeyes’ five losses since, the average margin has been 4.4 points.
McCaffery expects more consistent execution during the final minutes of games, something he considers to be the next step in his team’s development.
Senior Eric May sees the Hawkeyes’ inability to finish games as the most frustrating aspect of the team’s 14-9 season so far.
Working with a relatively young team, May said McCaffery has maintained a positive approach to working through the late-game mistakes that have plagued the Hawkeyes.
“We’ve shown that we can play with pretty much every team in the Big Ten,” May said. “That’s not the problem. We just need to finish, need to be more consistent at the critical moments. We’re playing good basketball.”
Marble said McCaffery has pounded that point home repeatedly to the team in recent days.
“We’re playing good ball as a team. We can’t change that attitude. We just have to put teams away when we have the chance,” Marble said.
Meanwhile, the Hawkeyes’ early-season scoring leader continues to work through his own offensive issues.
Since going 4-for-8 from the field in consecutive games against Northwestern and Wisconsin last month, Marble has hit 8 of 44 shots over Iowa’s past five games.
“I’ve never dealt with anything like this before. It hasn’t been easy,” Marble said. “I had been taking too many shots that were contested, but at Wisconsin I felt like I had some good open looks that just didn’t drop. All I can do is keep working to take good shots.”
Agreeing with that assessment, McCaffery expects Marble to continue to be part of the lineup.
By doing that, he wants Marble to know he remains confident in his abilities.
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It’s a confidence he hopes rubs off to the entire team if and when it finds itself facing another late-game challenge.
“You can’t look five games down the road and say, ‘Boy, I hope something good happens.’ You have to make something good happen,” McCaffery said.
Northwestern at Iowa
WHEN: 3:30 p.m. today
WHERE: Carver-Hawkeye Arena, Iowa City
RADIO: WOC 1420 AM, KROS 1340 AM, WMT 600 AM
* With Devyn Marble in a prolonged shooting slump, freshman Mike Gesell has led the Hawkeyes in scoring in three of their past four games, averaging 10.8 points during that stretch. Melsahn Basabe has started the last three of those games, averaging 7.7 points and 7 rebounds since moving into the lineup.
* The Wildcats have had a week off since blocking a school-record 12 shots in a 75-60 win over Purdue. Former walk-on Reggie Hearn, held to six points in the Hawkeyes’ 70-50 win at Welsh-Ryan Arena last month, scored 26 against the Boilermakers and leads Northwestern in scoring at 14.2 points per game.
* Heading into today’s game against a Northwestern team Iowa hasn’t beaten at home since 2010, reserves have played a significant role. The Hawkeyes are averaging 25.8 points per game off the bench. They used a 33-8 edge in bench points to take Wisconsin into double overtime on Wednesday before losing for the fourth time in their past five games.