Iowa sophomore point guard Mike Gesell admitted after Iowa’s Big Ten Conference battle with Purdue that he had never been the guy who was purposely fouled down the stretch of a basketball game.
Having struggled a few times this year in the closing minutes of close games, Gesell was the guy Purdue coach Matt Painter picked to go to the foul line and this time came through for the Hawkeyes.
Gesell was 5-of-7 from the stripe in the final 1:55, was 8-of-11 for the game and ended up with 15 points as the 20th ranked Iowa men’s basketball team ended a three-game losing streak with an 83-76 win over the Boilermakers at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Sunday afternoon.
“He's going to miss some free throws,” said Iowa coach Fran McCaffery of Gesell’s effort down the stretch. “But you keep fouling him, he's going to put you away. He missed some this year, yes, but they're isolated situations typically. It's not like he missed seven out of eight. You can expect him to make seven out of eight.”
Roy Devyn Marble added 21 points, five assists and four rebounds and remained the only Big Ten player to reach double-figures in every conference game this season, while Aaron White recorded his second straight and third double-double of the season with 15 points and 10 rebounds.
Josh Oglesby also scored all 11 of his points in the final 20 minutes when Iowa was struggling to put away a Purdue team that also entered the game on a three-game losing skid.
“It was a gut check, there's no question about that,” said McCaffery. “I think, you know, we showed a lot of character, there's no question.”
Iowa has recorded 20 wins in consecutive seasons for the first time since 2004-05/2005-06 and the Hawkeyes improved to 8-1 in Big Ten play when sinking at least five 3-pointers, even though they were just 5-of-16 from long range.
Marble also moved into seventh on the all-time scoring list at Iowa, passing the legendary Jess Settles. The Iowa senior also has scored at least 20 points in five of the team’s last six games, which marks the best stretch of his career.
“His consistency has been amazing at both ends of the floor,” said McCaffery of Marble. “He doesn't rattle. I think what you're seeing is a guy that's playing with a great level of confidence due to the fact that he's taking full advantage of the experience.”
The Hawkeyes (20-9, 9-7) had trouble shaking Purdue all afternoon. They used a 15-5 run in the final 3:53 of the first half to grab a 13-point advantage at halftime, but the Boilermakers (15-14, 5-11) scored 12 of the first 14 points of the second half to get within three and then took a four-point lead with 12:25 to go in the game.
Iowa then went on an 8-0 run thanks to five points from White, who now has 13 career double-doubles, to take a 68-64 lead with 11:21 to play. The Hawkeyes never trailed again but also never led by more than five until Oglesby buried two free throws with 8 seconds to go to finish off a tough home win.
“I think for us it was important to have to fight the way we did,” McCaffery said. “We had to take care of the ball. We had to guard. We had to make free throws. We had to be intelligent.
“We had a little bit of a tendency in the last two games to quick shoot the ball. If you're struggling on the road, you can't quick shoot the ball. We had longer possessions. By doing that, we were able to drive the ball, throw it inside and get fouled.”
The Hawkeyes shot just 43 percent from the floor and got out-rebounded 40-33 but still won thanks to just five turnovers, 26 bench points and 18 points off Purdue’s 16 turnovers.
"The last two games we had way too many turnovers," said Gesell, who had one miscue in 27 minutes against the Boilermakers. "That isn't like us. All year we haven't been a turnover team and we were back to our usual selves today."
Rapheal Davis scored a season-high 18 points for the Boilermakers, while sophomore center A.J. Hammons added 16 points, 14 rebounds and four blocks. Errick Peck scored 12 points and grabbed five rebounds off the bench, while Kendall Stephens also scored 12 and Terone Johnson chipped in 11 points and five assists.
"Turnovers were the key," Painter said. "We had some good looks at the basket, we just turned the ball over way too much."
The win moves Iowa back into fourth place in the Big Ten Conference and into the all-important top four positions that receive first-round byes in the conference tournament.
Ohio State’s loss to Indiana on Sunday is what pushed Iowa back into fourth. Nebraska and Iowa are both sitting at 9-7 in league play but the Hawkeyes’ won the only meeting this season in Carver-Hawkeye Arena earlier this season.
The Hawkeyes close the regular season next week beginning with a road test at Michigan State at 8 p.m. Thursday and its home finale Saturday at 7:30 p.m. against Illinois.
"Michigan State on the road. Don't have to say much more than that," McCaffery said. "Plus, they just lost their last game, so they're going to be ready for us. We'll be ready. It will be a great atmosphere, a huge game."