NEW YORK — Bright lights, big stage. The Iowa basketball team enjoyed a little time in the spotlight Tuesday at Madison Square Garden.
From Devyn Marble’s tone-setting start to a critical, 3-point basket by Eric May with just under 1 minutes remaining, the Hawkeyes earned their way into the championship game of the National Invitation Tournament.
Iowa held off a late charge by Maryland to advance to Thursday’s 8 p.m. title game against Baylor with a 71-60 victory over their future Big Ten rivals.
“Some people don’t want to be in this tournament. We play to win it,” said Marble, who led Iowa with 21 points.
En route to his fourth 20-point game of the NIT, the junior collected 10 of his points in the game’s first seven minutes to help the Hawkeyes to a lead the Terrapins never overcame.
“I thought one of the keys to the game was how we came out, particularly with Dev offensively,” Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said. “We got into a flow early, and he led us there. I think that settled everybody else down.”
Marble’s hot start sent Iowa on its way to a lead that grew as large as 14 points late in the opening half, but the Terrapins did not go away.
Iowa failed to score from the field over the final 5 minutes, 29 seconds of the first half, and a slam dunk on a break by Dez Wells sent Maryland into the locker room at the half within a 38-33 score. A strong first half by Adam Woodbury, who finished with nine points, kept the Hawkeyes in control.
The Terrapins came as close as 49-45 and were within five points twice late, but Iowa answered, extending its edge on a basket by Zach McCabe and May’s 3-pointer from the top of the key with just under 1 minute to play.
“Zach came out and set a great ball screen, had a great read and it was wide open,” May said. “I was confident at that point, shot clock was going down, needed to take the shot and it felt good leaving my hand.”
None of that surprised McCaffery.
“He’s been playing like that all year. I kept looking to take him out, but I just didn’t feel like I could do that. Defensively, offensively, he did everything right,” McCaffery said.
Maryland coach Mark Turgeon noticed that, as well.
“Iowa made plays. They made free throws. They made big shots they had to make,” Turgeon said. “They were ready and we weren’t. We didn’t play smart enough to win.”
The Terrapins turned the ball over 17 times — leading to 27 points for Iowa — and Maryland hurt itself with a 9 of 16 game at the foul line, a place where the Hawkeyes cashed in on 19 of their 24 opportunities.
Maryland worked its way into the bonus less than six minutes into the second half, but as the Terrapins (25-13) missed on three of their first four 1-and-1 opportunities, the Hawkeyes changed their strategy and began to drive the ball to the basket.
That led Iowa (25-12) to the line, as well, where the Hawkeyes cashed in.
“We were in foul trouble, but we continued to defend aggressively and that was significant,” McCaffery said. “We needed to hit our free throws and we were able to do that.”
Aaron White, who finished with 10 points and eight rebounds, collected eight of his points at the line.
Maryland rallied early in the second half by pounding the ball inside to 7-foot-1 Alex Len, who finished with 16 points.
“If it wasn’t for Alex down there keeping it close, it would have been tough,” Turgeon said. “Our shot selection and turnovers did us in.”
Iowa’s 25 wins equal the second most ever by an Iowa basketball team.
When May missed the first of two free throws with 5 minutes, 13 remaining in the first half, it ended a string of 21 consecutive made free throws by the Hawkeyes.
Iowa is now 1-2 all-time against the Terrapins, all in games played at neutral sites.
IOWA (25-12) – Basabe 2-7 0-0 4, White 1-3 8-10 10, Woodbury 3-8 3-4 9, Marble 8-16 3-4 21, May 3-7 5-6 12, Olaseni 1-1 0-0 2, Oglesby 0-2 0-0 0, Clemmons 1-3 0-0 2, Gesell 2-5 0-0 4, McCabe 3-5 0-0 7. Totals 24-57 19-24 71.
MARYLAND (25-13) – Mitchell 3-7 0-0 6, Wells 4-11 1-2 9, Len 6-10 4-6 16, Howard 0-2 2-2 2, Faust 5-14 2-6 14, Aronhalt 3-8 0-0 9, Layman 2-5 0-0 4, Padgett 0-0 0-0 0, Cleare 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 23-57 9-16 60.
Halftime – Iowa 38-33. 3-point goals – Iowa 4-12 (Marble 2-5, May 1-2, McCabe 1-2, Gesell 0-1, Oglesby 0-2); Maryland 5-15 (Aronhalt 3-6, Faust 2-5, Howard 0-1, Layman 0-1, Wells 0-2). Fouled out – Wells. Rebounds – Iowa 36 (Marble 9); Maryland 39 (Len 9). Assists – Iowa 17 (May 5); Maryland 12 (Howard 4). Total fouls – Iowa 17, Maryland 18. Att. – 10,009.
NEW YORK (AP) – Pierre Jackson had 24 points and 10 assists to lift Baylor back into the National Invitation Tournament title game for the second time in five years.
Baylor’s Cory Jefferson scored 21 points and Isaiah Austin had 14 points and 10 rebounds for the Bears.
Tyler Haws scored 25 points for the Cougars, who couldn’t buy a shot from 3-point range for much of the game. Baylor (22-14) pulled away in the final eight minutes or so, and then withstood a late furious rally by BYU, led by Matt Carlino on 5-for-15 3-point shooting. The rest of the Cougars (24-12) went 0-for-6.
Carlino, who finished with 19 points, made three late 3- pointers to give BYU one last chance. His third one, with about 38 seconds to go, bounced three times on the rim and fell through to make it 71-68.
Jackson missed one of two free throws on the other end to make it a four point game. Carlino put up another 3, but this one finally bounced wide, and Baylor was able to finally finish off the Cougars.
The senior has been closing out his career in style, entering Tuesday’s semifinal averaging 19 points and 11.7 assists in the Bears’ three NIT games. For the season, he has led the Big 12 in scoring and assists, and is on track to be the first player to lead a major conference in both since Jason Terry at Arizona in 1998-99.
He helped personally close out the Cougars with about four minutes to play. He made a mid-range rainbow to give Baylor a seven-point lead. Then he sank a 3-pointer with three-and-a-half minutes to go for a 10-point lead that seemed to settle matters.
It was his third straight double-double and fifth of the season. He’s reached double figures in 41 of 42 games this season. Austin got his 11th double-double.