Roy Devyn Marble

Iowa lands signature win on the road over Ohio State

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Iowa had lost three games this season — to Villanova, Iowa State and Wisconsin — with all those games either played on the road or at a neutral site. Those three losses also came by a combined 12 points.

Heading into Columbus, the No. 20 Hawkeyes were looking to put together a full, 40-minute game after surrendering second half leads in each of their three defeats. Sunday afternoon looked to be going the same way against No. 3 Ohio State, as the Buckeyes turned a two-point halftime deficit into a nine-point lead eight minutes into the second half.

Fran McCaffrey’s team withstood the Ohio State defense and ended the afternoon with a 20-9 run, leaving Columbus with an 84-74 road victory in Big Ten action.

Trailing by nine, with under 12 minutes to play, the Hawkeyes showed off its depth and 3-point shooting when Mike Gesell, Aaron White and Jarrod Uthoff connected on back-to-back-to-back threes. After OSU took the lead back, Josh Oglesby tied it at 60-all with a three of his own. Iowa shot poorly from deep (1-for-7) in the first half, but in the second half connected on 4-of-10 shots.

Roy Devyn Marble scored 12 of his 22 points in the first half to pace the offense.

Despite not shooting well from three in the first half, Iowa led by two heading into halftime, scoring 30 of its 37 points in the paint as the talented frontline took advantage of the smaller Ohio State front court.

We know Iowa can score, the Hawkeyes are top 10 in scoring nationally. But they took care of the ball in the first half, only committing five turnovers. In the second half, the Hawkeyes made four turnovers within the first eight minutes, but regrouped and executed down the stretch.

While Iowa limited Ohio State’s transition opportunities by taking care of the basketball, its defense forced 17 Ohio State turnovers. Even though the Buckeyes were successful at times against the zone, the 2-3 defense forced some mistakes.

This game really says a lot about Iowa, a team expected to be one of 68 selected come March. The Hawkeyes had devastating losses to Villanova, Iowa State and Wisconsin, but in all those games —  especially in hostile environments like Hilton Coliseum and the Khol Center — remained competitive until the end.

The fourth time was the charm for Iowa, scoring a signature road win against a resilient Ohio State team.

Battle 4 Atlantis title proves Syracuse will be relevant this season

rad Horrigan/The Courant via AP
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Michael Gbinije scored 20 points and Trevor Cooney added 15 points and five assists as Syracuse left the Bahamas with a title, beating No. 25 Texas A&M 74-67 in the finals of the Battle 4 Atlantis.

I guess it’s time to start taking the Orange seriously.

There’s a lot to like about this group. Gbinije and Cooney are both fifth-year seniors that not only understand how to operate at the top of the 2-3 zone that Jim Boeheim runs, but they both have developed into versatile offensive weapons. Cooney was known as nothing more than a jump-shooter when he arrived up north, but he’s now averaging 3.5 assists on the season.

And Gbinije?

He has been one of the best players in the country through the first two weeks of the season. Through six games, he’s averaged 19.7 points, 4.2 assists, 3.0 boards and 2.8 steals while shooting 51.3 percent from beyond the arc.

Freshman Malachi Richardson, who had 16 points in the win over A&M, has scored double-figures in all six games this season while another freshman, Tyler Lydon, was against terrific on Friday, finishing with 13 points and eight boards. He’s now shooting 58.8 percent from beyond the arc this season.

And that’s where this team is going to do the majority of their damage this season.

Through six games, they’re shooting 41.1 percent from beyond the arc. In the three wins in the Bahamas, the Orange knocked were 34-for-73 from beyond the arc, a 46.5 percent clip. The question isn’t whether or not that rate can continue — four of the six players that saw action on Friday are dangerous three-point shooters while the other two, Tyler Roberson  and DaJuan Coleman, aren’t going to be shooting threes — but what happens on the nights where the threes aren’t going down.

There are going to be nights where they shoot 5-for-25 instead of 11-for-25. Will they have enough firepower then? Will their defense be good enough? Will guys like Roberson and Coleman be able to supply a scoring punch? Will Cooney, Gbinije and Richardson attack the paint instead of settling for jumpers?

Because at the very least, these three games in the Bahamas have proven that the Orange are going to be relevant this season, even in the loaded ACC. Whether that means they’re going to push for a top four finish or simply end the year as a tournament team remains to be seen, but this much is clear: Jim Boeheim has himself a squad Upstate.

No. 10 Gonzaga outlasts No. 18 UConn despite late offensive struggles

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No. 10 Gonzaga survived a furious rally from No. 18 UConn to win the third place game in the Battle 4 Atlantis, 73-70.

The Zags were up by as much as 21 points early in the second half, leading 48-27, but UConn slowly chipped away at the lead. Kyle Wiltjer led four players in double-figures with 17 points while Eric McClellan added 15 points, making a number of key plays in the second half when it looked like the Zags were in danger of giving away the lead.

As good as Gonzaga looked in the first 22 minutes of this game — and they looked really, really good — the second half exposed the concerns that many had with this group entering the season. Kevin Pangos and Gary Bell Jr., who both shot around 40 percent from beyond the arc and started for four years, graduated, meaning that Gonzaga’s point guard situation is, more or less, Josh Perkins.

Perkins was terrific in the second half of a loss to Texas A&M on Thursday. He played 17 foul-plagued minutes against UConn. When UConn’s defense ratcheted up during the second half, Gonzaga struggled finding a way to consistently get good shots on the offensive end. Part of that was due to ineffective point guard play and part of it was a result of not really having anyone on the offensive end that can create a look on their own. As skilled as Wiltjer is, his impact can be limited when pick-and-pop actions aren’t working and he’s getting doubled in the post.

Perkins is talented, but this is essentially his first season of college basketball; he was a medical redshirt last season after breaking his jaw last November. There are going to be ups-and-downs, and that’s problematic on a team where he is essentially the only point guard on the roster.

The good news?

Gonzaga beat a good UConn team on a day when their best players struggled in crunch-time. It was McClellan and Kyle Dranginis that made the big plays down the stretch, not the big names on the Gonzaga roster.